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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and 100% Accurate Portrayal of Wall Street Excess - Spot On!
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...
Published 20 months ago by JK

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tedious but interesting Resignation Letter
First up, books like this are important. We need more insiders to come out and tell those of us on the outside what happened internally and why the markets crashed. We do need courageous people like this to speak out and explain to those of us deeply affected by the decisions of the elite few, exactly what happened and exactly how they managed to tank the markets and the...
Published 9 months ago by Paul Sharpe


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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and 100% Accurate Portrayal of Wall Street Excess - Spot On!, October 30, 2012
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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
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. Where's their bailout?" This question planted the seed. Smith began to understand that big winnings at GS were due to its quasi-government status and not delivery of superior service to clients.

The former Goldman Sachs chief lobbyist, Mark Patterson had been brought in as chief of staff to Timothy Geithner at Treasury. GS's link to the welfare of its clients was gone. GS was in the DC power structure so realities on the ground had quietly shifted. Taxpayers made good dollar-for-dollar the enormous AIG bailout that went mainly to GS. The public would simply have to wait down the line for some kind of bailout, if it ever comes. And if it comes, John Q. Citizen might not immediately recognize it because trust was wiped out. That's what Smith seems to be trying to repair.

Smith's depiction of GS tracks with the Wall Street culture famously described in Liar's Poker, by Michael Lewis. Entry into the culture of Goldman was exactly like entry into Salomon Brothers per Lewis. Young candidates were treated almost as dismissively as military recruits in boot camp/basic training. You're ready to graduate from the training when you can verbally stand up to your tormentors without violating the culture rules. I was fascinated.

Smith's account lends support to some extent to Robert Kiyosaki's assertions that GS runs the government. Kiyosaki is author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. I got the impression that GS can get the rules changed in its favor. Clearly Smith's book gives GS partners something to worry about though. No client likes to be taken for a sucker. GS once had a stellar reputation, seems so long ago.

(Recommended reading: Declare Independence from Party Affiliation)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read but I expected more focus on Bigger Issues, March 13, 2013
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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.

I give the author a great deal of credit for writing the book and op-ed piece since he is very cautious by nature and would even ask colleagues for advice on simple things, like whether to attend a colleague's bachelor party. He is also an honorable man who appears sincere but in many ways still sees Wall Street people as basically good but that they work within a corrupt system.

Another view of the conduct he reveals (e.g., giving self-serving recommendations, taking the "axe off" Goldman's balance sheet) is that GS staff are acting like con men. People who embezzle thousands of dollars get multi-year jail terms while Wall Street traders who intentionally fleece clients out of millions of dollars walk away rich after a few years of pirating.

I hope that this Mr. Smith can come to Washington and work for the structural reforms that are desperately needed. The author wrote many market profiles while working for the firm; perhaps, future books and articles can explore solutions for the problems that remain. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the hidden world of Goldman Sachs.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It made me think Investment banking is actually better than what I had imagined., November 11, 2012
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?"

---

Afterthoughts

Before I read the book, I thought it was just another Wall Street banker who wanted to get famous for getting his sack. After reading, his argument seems convincing, all in all, he seems like a genuine guy who wants to change the world for the better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tedious but interesting Resignation Letter, October 13, 2013
By 
Paul Sharpe (Taipei,, Taipei Hsien Taiwan) - See all my reviews
First up, books like this are important. We need more insiders to come out and tell those of us on the outside what happened internally and why the markets crashed. We do need courageous people like this to speak out and explain to those of us deeply affected by the decisions of the elite few, exactly what happened and exactly how they managed to tank the markets and the economy in 2008. Also, they need to explain why we are still poised on the brink (with sovereign debt in the US and Europe still a major concern). So I commend Mr. Smith for his courage in coming out and sharing his experiences with the world.

Second, he does give an interesting perspective on how Goldman Sachs changed from an investment bank into a hedge fund and how they shifted their strategy from caring about the customer to caring about their own margins. He outlines the difference between the way clients were treated after 9/11 and the 2008 meltdown. He argues that after 9/11 Goldman Sachs was willing to take the hits to their own profit margin and cared more about the client than their own P/L statement, whereas after the 2008 meltdown senior people at GS were only concerned about their P/L and were willing to sacrifice relationships and reputation to protect their margins. He also discusses in summary the many difficulties with the highly complex derivative products that were sold to clients without the clients fully understanding the products. He also argues that there were certain gullible customers that Goldman targeted and (by implication) preyed upon to boost their own revenues even though they knew that some of the products were not good for the client.

These behaviors do need to be exposed and I do commend Mr. Smith on having the courage to do this. I am sure that writing this book (and the original editorial) must have been difficult for Mr. Smith and I am sure he burned many bridges and compromised many relationships by trying to bring out the truth of what was behind the strategies that effected the world economy in such a drastic way. That said, I do have some issues with the book and things Mr. Smith writes about.

While I do think books like this do need to written, they need to be analytical and rigorous and spend time explaining to people exactly what caused the meltdown and exactly what was going on. Mr. Smith does do this to some degree but wastes a lot of time and space on inane, mind numbing details that don't really contribute to the conversation at all. I mean is the canteen crisis in the new Goldman building really adding to the conversation? Does a description of the banning of all participation from the Goldman gym really need to be told (apart from telling us that these are entitled, spoiled grown ups). Do we really need to know that when he had certain important conversations he was standing behind a urinal? These types of inane subjects just seem to be space fillers and do not contribute much to the conversation of the financial crisis and the moral bankruptcy of the investment bank culture.

Also, Mr. Smith's own self promotion seems to be at odds with the humility he is trying to project: I was the best table tennis player, I only ever made one mistake on the futures desk, I started to write summaries and was highly commended for them. Stuff like this seems to be self serving and self promoting in some ways and is a display of false humility (intended or not). I have no doubt that Mr. Smith is a smart man. I have no doubt he worked hard and the success that followed him was in no doubt because of his hard work and determination, but this type of self promotion is completely unnecessary. Also, his complete sense of privilege is also shown by his "subway stories." He lived an entitled, privileged life and yet seemed to think taking the subway was a sacrifice rather than the day-to-day existence of most normal people.

The other disturbing feature about the book is how he was only concerned about HIS career, HIS future, HIS finances and HIS family during the crisis. I must say this is very honest, but very disturbing. I personally knew many people outside the finance sector who had nothing to do with investment banking who showed more care and concern for the long term effects this crisis was going to have on everyone, and did not think only about their own well being. Mr. Smith earning upward of USD200k a year from his early twenties should have worked harder at securing his financial future through saving and living a more normal life.

The last area that really disturbed me about the book was that Mr. Smith tries to come across as an innocent victim in the whole financial collapse. He comes across as someone completely ignorant of what was going on and tries to present himself as a wide eyed innocent, but I simply reject this. Yes, I know he cannot be guilty by association with those who did tank the market and those who did design dangerous derivative products, but I cannot believe he was completely surprised by the collapse. Once again I personally knew a few people in corporate finance that were predicting the meltdown and there were many others who were predicting the sub-prime mortgage crisis before the meltdown happened. Did Mr. Smith really have his head so deep in the sand that he could not see the impending crisis?

All in all this long, protracted resignation letter is an interesting read, but not a compelling one. I do commend Mr. Smith for taking the time to do it but I do hope further efforts will be more revealing, perhaps something along the lines of Andrew Sheng's "From Asian to Global Financial Crisis". I am sure Mr. Smith will find a new and prosperous career somewhere on Wall Street and I do wish him well in the future, but I did find his long resignation letter a little too self serving and tedious.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Why I love Goldman Sachs", May 16, 2013
Should have called the book, "why I love Goldman Sachs". In my mind it was a complete praise of Goldman and a typical life at the firm (at the end of the day it is the same old stuff over and over again). I commend Greg on lasting 12 years in that envirnoment because he seems to be a good enough person. But, I felt like the book was more selling Goldman than on why he really left. He basically waited until the last part of the book (i.e. - last part of the last chapter to explain why he left). I did enjoy reading about Goldman and the culture and how it has changed. But all organizations change with different leadership. You either follow the new leader or get out. Greg chose to get out and I say good job. But, I think the title is very misleading. If you are looking for a read about the inside of Goldman and wild excesses that would drive someone to leave, do not read this book. If you want to know about the basic day in the life and how one man succeeded. This book is for you. I enjoyed the read, but the title does not describe the actual content. And for that I have a problem with this book. Just do not expect a glamourus story about all the craziness that mind thinks happens in a wall street firm. Because this is not that kind of book. It is a basic story of someone getting his dream job and then leaving because of a disagreement with a new management style. We have all been there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Story, April 18, 2013
By 
Some reviewers have commented on the fact that this book does not provide any smoking guns or grand revelations - which is true - however I found it to be a smart and honest depiction of a day to day worker, chasing his dream and finding success only to become disgusted on how the business erodes his integrity. Anyone who has ever worked for a large corporation will identify with the hypocrisy of values and ethics preached to the grunt workers, while the top office makes decisions based solely on profit.
The book does not try to explain the complexities of financial instruments, but Smith does enough explaining to tell his story. A few reviews have complained that Smith is writing to trumpet his own success, but really it's necessary to understand his positive experiences, so that we can appreciate the enormous decision he makes to leave.

The book left me asking--was banking always corrupt, and he was just too young and naive to see it? Or is there something in our modern culture that has degraded standards and ethics, so that behavior once considered unacceptable and shameful is now tolerated for the sake of short-term profit?
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn About GS & GS, October 29, 2012
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In "Why I Left Goldman Sachs," Greg Smith tells an honest account of his life while at the firm. He shares his own unique experience beginning from the earliest days at the firm as an intern and leads the reader through personal anecdotes that shed light on his decision to ultimately leave Goldman Sachs.

Not only will a reader gain a new understanding for the inner-workings and conflicts of interest on Wall Street, but they'll also learn a lot about the man and motivation behind decisions. Greg Smith shares a great deal about his upbringing, basic principles, moral/ethical beliefs, and general perceptions of Wall Street. Smith does a good job of communicating his thoughts clearly (which I think is especially hard given the complexity of the industry).

The book is also entertaining; Smith will often drop an allusion to TV sitcoms like "Who's the Boss" or "Miami Vice" which keeps the tone light-hearted and relatable.

After reading the book, you'll recognize that Smith is a man who has strong character, stands up for what he believes in, and wants to work on correcting a broken system that impacts all of us.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book but author is more reserved than you'd expect, January 3, 2013
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This book is a great portrayal of life in Wall Street. You'd think that Wall Street is so big and full of "smart" people that there would be more people like Greg Smith who come out in public and speak their conscience about how business is done. Not the case, Wall Street remains a very secretive place with a lot of deals done in a dark room with 5 or 6 guys shaking hands. I applaud this guy for doing it. Most of the big firms are far more concerned about reputation than the law (and rightfully so) and this makes the book even more significant. I found this book to be a very accurate portrayal of life in the street. Being in the financial services myself I was able to relate to a lot of the stories regarding training and being a young trader at GS. Also, it was easy to identify with stories about office politics and how business is done at GS. Anyone looking to buy this book should know that Greg is no Michael Lewis but this is probably a good thing. Some of the stories are a bit dry but at the same time accurate. I found Michael Lewis fun to read but some of the stories are highly exaggerated. But I digress.....

My only complaint about the book is that it does not go far enough. Some of the anecdotal stories that Greg recounts regarding ridiculous behavior on the parts of the managers and partners are really standard practice in Wall Street. Anyone working in the financial services will quickly learn that there is an abundance of a holes and irresponsible behavior is often rewarded well. Also, the main point of the book that clients are viewed as the enemy is again standard practice in the street. This was more so the case before 2008 but even nowadays there have not been a lot of changes. In many cases the hedge fund stars are the salespeople who bring in all the money and not the guy that manages the portfolios. I would have liked to see a bit more of the irresponsible behavior in the book and am not sure why Greg did not go all the way. A good reason for this might be because as I mentioned above there is no trail for these types of shenanigans....you really have to be there to see it and believe it.

Finally I was surprised at all the negative press that this book got which really supports the author's thesis. I saw Greg in an interview with Maria Bartiromo and she just wouldn't shut up about why the author stayed at GS for 11+ years and then wrote this book. It's a valid question but that's really all she focused on. I can say from personal experience that you really need a good 5-6 years to really understand what really is going on in terms of how things work in a big firm like GS and in Wall Street. And it might be that he postponed it a bit for personal reasons (US papers maybe?) or other reasons. Whatever the reason is the fact that there is gross disrespect for clients in Wall Street remains true. What's really disturbing is that it's common practice and yet you don't hear many if any people point it out.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful and a page turner, November 16, 2012
This book was very well written and very insightful to the inner workings of one of the world's most prestigious Wall Street companies.

As a novice to Wall street terminology, the author took his time to make sure you understood what you read. Simply a page turner!! I read it cover to cover in less than 2 days.

A must read for anyone who is interested in where Wall Street and Investment banking in general has gone wrong and why we are in the mess we are in financially through out the world.

If more people would take the responsibility and call to arms to expose, correct and confront immoralities in business and all aspects of life, what kind of world would we live in.

Thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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