The controversial former head of Goldman Sachs’ United States equity derivatives business for Goldman Sachs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa chronicles his work for, and departure from, the Wall Street financial giant.
“If I achieve one thing with this book,” writes Smith, “I hope it will be to empower some people with enough understanding” to call their congressional representatives and ask for a modern version of the Pecora Commission, which investigated Wall Street after the 1929 crash and proposed durable reforms. The author became a figure of controversy when, on March 15, 2012, the New York Times published his resignation letter, in which he called the current atmosphere at the company “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.” Indeed, controversy, criticism and questions about his motivation and ability continue to swirl around his book. Smith chronicles his career, which began when he applied for Goldman's intern program when at Stanford University. He explains how the search for revenues from fees came to overshadow the growth of clients' assets, as dog-eat-dog competitiveness spread among the employees at all levels. In the author's view, the transformation took place gradually over the 12 years he worked for the company. Goldman became bound up with changing views of employees' function in financial transactions and the hunt for “elephant trades,” in which “Goldman made $1 million or more in discretionary profit.” Smith links this process effectively to the boom-bust bubble cycle, which characterized the financial world during those years.
The author's personal account of the many facets of daily life at Goldman Sachs gives his memoir the power of persuasion and conviction.