Greg Smith, Another Wall Street Con Man

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By William D. Cohan

What to make of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s release to Bloomberg News of internal self-assessments and peer reviews of Greg Smith, who left the firm in March through a notorious op-ed piece in the New York Times. While the release of the documents does raise troubling questions for the bank itself, what they reveal about Smith -- without question -- is that he is nothing more than a sweet-talking con man.

He conned the Times into thinking he was resigning from Goldman Sachs on principle, when he was really nothing more than a disgruntled and ambitious former employee who wanted a bigger bonus and a bigger title and got, and merited, neither.

He conned Grand Central Publishing, which paid him a reported $1.5 million for his "tell-all" book about how the culture at Goldman Sachs had deteriorated during his 12-year tenure into something he no longer recognized, when really Goldman has always been a stinging scorpion. (Disclosure: my wife is the editor- in-chief of Grand Central Publishing, although she had nothing to do with editing Smith's book, and neither of us has read it.)

He has conned the producers of CBS's "60 Minutes" -- which is scheduled to air a segment about Smith and his book Sunday night (unless they come to their senses).

He conned everyone into thinking that there was an untold narrative on Wall Street about how someone could be so offended by the behavior at these firms that he would up and quit, leaving behind untold millions in potential compensation, in the hope of making everyone understand how badly things need to be reformed. There is indeed a place for that narrative, and Wall Street does need serious reform. But, as we now know and have long suspected, Greg Smith has no standing to tell that story.

(Corrects year that Smith left Goldman in the first paragraph.)

(William D. Cohan, a former investment banker and the author of “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World,” is a Bloomberg View columnist.  Read his columns.)

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-0- Oct/18/2012 21:41 GMT