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Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story [Kindle Edition]

Greg Smith
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.99
Kindle Price: $12.74
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Book Description



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.



Editorial Reviews

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

Review

A portrait, in Proustian detail, of a world and a mentality that is utterly alien, and should be infuriating, to most of us on Main Street.

-- Mark Gongloff, Huffington Post


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, Booklist

[Greg Smith] did what we would all hope that our own banker would do: he spoke out publicly about something that was wrong.

-- Hamilton Nolan, Gawker


An insider's take on Goldman Sachs strikes a nerve....it provides a rare inside look into a career path to which many aspire: from nothing to Wall Street affluence. It will also be read because of its characterisation of Goldman's integrity. Where once it profited from helping clients prosper, the bank shifted, Mr Smith contends, into an entity that profited from clients.

-- The Economist


...Smith has written a field guide to the culture of Goldman Sachs and a fly-on-the-wall account of Wall Street on the skids.

--USA Today



The author's personal account of the many facets of daily life at Goldman Sachs gives his memoir the power of persuasion and conviction.

-- Kirkus

Product Details

  • File Size: 460 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 22, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008ENA74E
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,684 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
By JK
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well written and completely accurate portrayal of the excesses and improprieties of Wall Street culture. I can say firsthand from my own experience on the Goldman trading floor, Greg Smith must have really held back in this book. There are so many more outrageous stories and examples that could have gone into this book. But nonetheless, I don't think the book was meant to be an SEC complaint with specific indictments but a mere snapshot outline of what is wrong with Wall Street today, and Goldman Sachs in particular. The book reads easy, does a great job explaining some of the trader terminology, and is really best suited for those with little to no exposure to Wall Street who are looking for a "no B.S." account of what is plaguing the institutions behind our global financial system.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The knowledge of good and evil October 22, 2012
Format:Hardcover
The book almost could be titled, "Why I Left Government." It's about a career in big finance. After years working with elite financial professionals, Greg Smith's values came in conflict with the business. Customers and the public get disrespected because we're often gullible when it comes to financial instruments.

Goldman Sachs (GS) had a storied and honorable tradition. Things changed during Smith's 12-year tenure. GS's corporate culture now reflects the corruption and cynicism of our society, only on a scale defying imagination.

Be warned that the author, in my view, is not a natural storyteller. It's easier to stay with a story when the characters are brought to life. My review is based on the audible version which is unabridged and narrated by the author. I always appreciate it when the author is the narrator. Smith's personal style is that he doesn't speak with a lot of passion.

Smith started as a competitive academic high-performer when he was 21-years old in 2000. He describes the selection process as if coaching college students to make the cut with big-name firms. Candidates get subjected to extreme pressure and embarrassment. Smith later learned GS did this to assess candidates for integrity, as it's tempting to make stuff up under pressure in an effort to save face. Despite the state of the stock market at the time with the dot-com crash under way, those were idealistic and innocent times compared to now. In some respects, Smith's book is sincerely flattering to GS.

I feel that Smith's turning point came when his best friend Lex asked one simple question. Lex was concerned about Congress passing TARP and bailing out Goldman Sachs along with other elite firms. Lex asked, "What about the other people whose 401Ks are getting decimated.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Timothy
Format:Hardcover
I just got my hands on this book and finished reading within a day, it was a very pleasurable short reading of Greg Smith's career at GS. The book actually gave me a better impression of the investment banking sector rather than the intended purpose. I suppose I was too negatively reflected upon these institutions through highly subjective media, be them mainstream or niche. The entire 10 out of 11 chapters were talking how upright things had been for GS; its corporate culture, moral ethics, and people. I had a complete paradigm shift about investment banking because I have not heard of so many goods things about them. I felt naïve being indoctrinated by those banker bashing media on the Internet. Investment banking was a business of integrity, but when things experienced their greatest historic advances, quality had to be sacrificed for maintaining past growth momentum. Investment banking was over long ago when Hank Paulson quit as the CEO of GS in 2006.

Smith pretty much nailed the crux of the book at the ending paragraph; perfectly executed.

"People know that there is something deeply wrong with the system, but very few can put their finger on what the problem is. After the crash in 1929, the U.S. Senate conducted the Pecora Hearings, to investigate the causes of the crash. This inquiry led to real reforms that held banks accountable and eliminated the abusive practices that had caused the stock market crash. This was followed by decades of calm in the financial system. If I achieve one thing with this book, I hope it will be to empower some people with enough understanding to call their congressman, congresswoman, or senator and ask this question: Why don't you have the guts to do the same thing?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
First, the book should have been titled "My career at Goldman Sachs before and after the financial crisis" since the author's reason for leaving the firm occupies only the last quarter of the book. Too much of the book is spent on personal anecdotes on individuals, client stories and parties. If the purpose was to open GS to outsiders who care about the personalities of VPs, MPs, Associates etc., then the book is highly informative. I had hoped that the book would also offer an insider's view of the big "financial crisis" issues: such as:

* Why was Goldman operated as a hedge fund with leverage levels that made it vulnerable to collapse?

* Why does the firm still have a net derivative exposure 7 times its risk-based capital, the highest among all federally chartered banks and seven times greater than Morgan Stanley?

* Why was it OK for the taxpayers to cover Goldman's counterparty risk with AIG derivatives?

* If Goldman and others are operating a rigged casino to fatten up partner and associate bonuses (total 2012 GS salary, bonus and perks spending was reported to be $13 billion, or about $400,000 per employee), then should the government ban proprietary trading?

* Have the hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative products peddled by Goldman and others merely set the stage for a worldwide financial system meltdown when the Central Banks cannot stop future runs on the counterparties and banks?

These and other issues related to conflicts of interest, sleazy ethics and non-fiduciary conduct are of greater importance for reforming the financial services industry.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile cautionary tale on the perils of putting profit before...
I am not usually a fan of tell-all autobiographies, but this one needs to make your reading list because of how the author's story takes you behind the destructive power that... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Rohit Bhargava, bestselling author of Likeonomics
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book explains what has happened to honesty and ethics in big business.
Published 1 month ago by Whatever
4.0 out of 5 stars A candid and humble account of ones career
A quixotic reader can relate to Greg's synopsis. An ambitious person of high ideals with a punctilious eye for detail, the author details his rapid rise through the ranks of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Arnab K. Karmakar
1.0 out of 5 stars Immature narcissistic autobiography
This book is probably one of the worst ones I have seen in years. It's style and content is reminiscent of undergrad essays you see at the uni - with not a single spark of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Qu
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I thought I would learn a bit about financial markets by reading this book. I thought there would be nasty details about the practices of big investment banks. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paulo de Vissec
4.0 out of 5 stars good book...summarizes the decline of goldman sachs before during and...
Great book so far....if you are interested in an insider look at what was going on from the inside of goldman sachs before during and after the recession, this is your book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Israel Contreras
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
okay
Published 5 months ago by bianca whalen
4.0 out of 5 stars Ohhhh Goldman
Even the world's best known and most trusted investment bank could fall prey to greed, and abandon their decades-long history of integrity and honesty. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kathryn L. Olson
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought used library book
Did not know what to expect when purchasing a used library text, but it was in great condition, and was a great transaction
Published 5 months ago by Kayla Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Let people know what GS really is as a financial institution and what have they been doing to the market
Published 6 months ago by Wu Chun Pang
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More 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.

Follow Greg on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/GregSmithPage) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/GregSmith_NY).


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