It is always amusing to see the drama of sports. D’Antoni resigned today from the New York Knickerbockers and there was a large overflow of attention on social media. The opinions of Carmelo stinking it up and not fitting in with Linsanity is something to be further analyzed, although, I do not think there would be a crisp conclusion to the question. But just to indulge myself as a self proclaimed momentary analyst (as everyone seems to do these days), I do think D’Antoni’s run and gun style of play, while it actually helps Jeremy Lin’s lack of defense, does not fit well with Anthony’s style of play, but we all know Carmelo wasn’t leaving New York anytime soon. But what is always illuminating in moments like these is the amount of public interest that arises. It was not long ago that the KONY 2012 video went viral, are we over the initial excitement for the campaign? But instead of critiquing our short attention spans, this inundation of attention that changes so frequently seems to reveal that we, our society or culture, need escape. Maybe we need these short spurts of excitement to keep us going through our mundane schedules. Almost like a drug…
One event that seems to have been eclipsed by the media’s excess coverage of the Knickerbocker resignation drama is the other resignation concerning the finance district of the very same city. Goldman Sachs’ executive director (now former executive director), Greg Smith, has resigned from his position effective today. Why’s that interesting? Maybe it’s not. But it seems to have potential to be a watershed moment in financial morality. He writes in an OP-ED in the NY Times titled, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs“, of how the culture of the firm has deteriorated to the point where client interest have been so sidelined compared to the firm’s own profit interests. It is fascinating to see that there actually existed a financial culture where client is primary sometimes over and against the profit of the firm. He describes the state of financial morality we live in now that sickens him and has moved him toward resignation:
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C.,Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
I hope that Smith’s article can be a spark that motivates our current financial culture toward a more upright and just culture. The natural cynic inside me is skeptical but I remind myself of the quote from the brilliant Conan O’Brien:
To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.
So to end with comics and levity, here is a parody of Smith’s article titled, “Why I Am Leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader“, because laughter is not just the greatest escape from banality, but it is, in a manner, a jab-hook at pessimism and at broken morality, a hoping for a better world where joy, justice, and jubilation can abound.