Greg Smith quit his job at the investment firm Goldman Sachs on Wednesday in a spectacularly public op-ed in The New York Times. Few among us can even imagine doing such a thing, but few among us can even imagine the kind of money he made in his job, the official title of which was executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
For those of us fed up with Wall Street and people like Mitt Romney and their ilk trading money to get more money and falling dangerously close to Mr. Burns territory from The Simpsons, Smith is a bit of a folk hero. But is he really?
Smith said he was quitting his job because the firm had come so far away from the core values he saw when he joined as a summer intern out of Stanford in 2000. That's a long time, but it isn't SO long that he can really make such claims. Smith says:
The interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
Who hasn't dreamed of flipping a mean boss the bird in such a spectacular fashion? The schadenfreude we all felt reading it was too personal, too wonderful. At least 100 of my Facebook friends shared this letter yesterday.
Then there was the backlash. People saying Smith was a "nobody," a disgruntled cog in the wheel. Maybe that is true. But the backlash is all too predictable and happens every time someone pulls a Steven Slater and rides their own escape slide out the place while burning a million bridges in their wake.
Is this an insane move?
Never mind the specifics and the questions about whether Smith himself was pompous and in denial. He may think he is the bee's knees because he holds a bronze medal from the "Jewish Olympics" but this isn't about him.
This is about a whistle blower and a thing we all need to hear. Goldman Sachs -- and Wall Street in general -- has gone awry and we the people are not angry enough. Maybe it takes someone like Smith to get us off our butts and see how far Reagan and Romney and the people in power who protect Wall Street fat cats have taken us from who we are as a country.
It's sick and wrong, so Greg Smith is a hero in my book. Even pompous, wealthy people who are way too into themselves can have a shining moment. This is his. Good on him!
Do you think what Smith did was wrong?
Image via Mihneaâ„¢/Flickr