Goldman Op-Ed Writer Got $150 for Unsolicited Critique

The New York Times, drawing criticism for running an op-ed by a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive attacking the bank, said the piece was one of thousands of unsolicited submissions it receives weekly.

“We got it by e-mail,” New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal said in a telephone interview. Smith was paid about $150 for his submission, a typical amount, said a person with direct knowledge of the situation who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public. The newspaper pays varying amounts for its op-eds, except to public figures or politicians, the person said.

Wall Street, including Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman, has faulted the newspaper for publishing an op-ed piece based on the view of one among more than 30,000 Goldman Sachs employees. All the facts that could be checked were checked in Smith’s submission, Rosenthal said.

“The purpose of the op-ed page is to air an important position,” Rosenthal said. “We’re saying, ‘This is interesting,’ and by the way, ‘interesting,’ very often means it’ll make you crazy.”

In the March 14 op-ed that explained why he was quitting, Greg Smith called Goldman Sachs’s culture “toxic and destructive.”

Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein rebutted Smith’s claims in a letter to employees the same day, saying his assertions didn’t reflect the New York-based bank’s values and how the “vast majority” of its employees think about their firm.

Piece Merited Publication

Morgan Stanley’s Gorman said he told staff not to circulate the op-ed.

“I was surprised that anyone would run an op-ed piece based upon the view of a single employee,” Gorman said today at an event in New York hosted by Fortune magazine.

Smith was identified by the newspaper as an executive director and head of the bank’s U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe. While Smith wasn’t among the most senior executives at Goldman Sachs, his screed against the firm’s culture merited publication, Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal declined to say when Smith’s letter was received and how long it took for the editorial staff to verify the submission. The majority of op-ed pieces are commissioned, or from writers who have previously written for the section, he said.

“Very few come over the transom queue,” Rosenthal said. “Some of them famously have -- this is one of them.”

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