Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story

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9781619696013: Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story



On March 14, 2012, more than three million people read Greg Smith's bombshell Op-Ed in the New York Times titled "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs." The column immediately went viral, became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, and drew passionate responses from former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch, and New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg. Mostly, though, it hit a nerve among the general public who question the role of Wall Street in society -- and the callous "take-the-money-and-run" mentality that brought the world economy to its knees a few short years ago. Smith now picks up where his Op-Ed left off.

His story begins in the summer of 2000, when an idealistic 21-year-old arrives as an intern at Goldman Sachs and learns about the firm's Business Principle #1: Our clients' interests always come first. This remains Smith's mantra as he rises from intern to analyst to sales trader, with clients controlling assets of more than a trillion dollars.

From the shenanigans of his summer internship during the technology bubble to Las Vegas hot tubs and the excesses of the real estate boom; from the career lifeline he received from an NFL Hall of Famer during the bear market to the day Warren Buffett came to save Goldman Sachs from extinction-Smith will take the reader on his personal journey through the firm, and bring us inside the world's most powerful bank.

Smith describes in page-turning detail how the most storied investment bank on Wall Street went from taking iconic companies like Ford, Sears, and Microsoft public to becoming a "vampire squid" that referred to its clients as "muppets" and paid the government a record half-billion dollars to settle SEC charges. He shows the evolution of Wall Street into an industry riddled with conflicts of interest and a profit-at-all-costs mentality: a perfectly rigged game at the expense of the economy and the society at large.

After conversations with nine Goldman Sachs partners over a twelve-month period proved fruitless, Smith came to believe that the only way the system would ever change was for an insider to finally speak out publicly. He walked away from his career and took matters into his own hands. This is his story.

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About the Author:

Greg Smith resigned in the spring of 2012 as the head of Goldman Sachs's United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Smith graduated from Stanford University and went to work for the firm full-time in 2001. He spent his first ten years in the New York headquarters before moving to London in 2011. He currently lives in New York City.

From Booklist:

Goldman Sachs, the “Rolls Royce of investment banks,” has remained in business for more than 140 years, primarily due to a strict set of moral values that revolve around the principle that the “clients’ interests always come first.” These were the principles that were in place when Smith joined the firm as a junior analyst in the early 2000s. He describes entering an extremely competitive environment in which only the upper echelon of the best and the brightest survive, in which confidentiality, honesty, and integrity are fundamental to every business decision, and in which justice can be swift and brutal. A well-liked and promising study, Smith rose quickly through the ranks, witnessing firsthand the immediate effects of the tech bubble, the 9/11 attacks, and the housing meltdown. Through the turmoil, Goldman Sachs remained the one bellwether securities firm that could not be toppled, but inside the firm, the culture was changing. Rather than simply advising and trading for customers, Sachs began to resemble a hedge fund, doing proprietary trading and often taking positions opposite those they recommended to clients, a huge conflict of interest. Ultimately, the climate eroded so badly that only the largest commissions, known as “elephant trades,” became the driving force for everything the company aimed for, as clients’ interests fell completely by the wayside. This finally led to Smith’s famous March 14, 2012, op-ed for the New York Times, titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” Despite Smith’s pointed criticism of Goldman Sachs, he is otherwise remarkably kind to the company. There is not much mud to sling, but what we find is a personal tale of one person caught up in a wave of greed, betrayal, and a complete disregard for the standards that had made Goldman Sachs the most trusted name on Wall Street. --David Siegfried

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