Goldman Sachs Op-Ed creates Dangerous Precedent

Like most people, I read the March 14 New York Times Op-Ed "Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs" with mouth agape. For those not in the know, Greg Smith, a 12-year employee of the venerable investment banking and securities firm, publicly lambasted his now former employer, saying that "... I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it." My favorite part of the piece is the author bio, which appears at the end of the op-ed: "Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm's blah blah blah ... " Really! Ya think! Yesterday, Yahoo! Finance reported that Goldman saw $2.15 billion of its market value wiped out as a result of the op-ed. How is that for the power of words?

So is it just me, or does anyone else feel like something is wrong with this picture?

I will be the first person to tell you that work culture is of critical importance to the success of a company and its clients. I built an agency  around healthy work culture  and I left many jobs as the result of toxic cultures.

But since when was it the journalistic mission of The New York Times, arguably the most influential newspaper in the world, to publish what was tantamount to the resignation letter of a disgruntled employee? People become unhappy with their jobs all the time. Sometimes it's with cause, other times, it's because an individual's priorities or ideals have changed. Often the circumstances are murky and neither party (the company nor the departing employee) is blameless.

The New York Times is not in the business of helping employees air cultural grievances about their employers -- legal improprieties yes, but cultural grievances no. There is already a website for that, it's called www.Glassdoor.com. So why did the Times run this particular op-ed? Perhaps because Goldman Sachs has been such a polarizing company over the last few years? Perhaps because they knew it would generate a ton of press and secondary play for their newspaper? And perhaps because they knew the Wall Street Journal might pick it up if they declined to run it? Regardless of the reason, many people who hold Goldman Sachs stock are worth less today on paper as a result of this op-ed, and the reputation of a giant company is further compromised.

For the hell of it, I went to the Times' letters to the editor section to see if anyone shared my point of view. Surprisingly, I only saw letters that applauded Mr. Smith for outing his employer. To be clear, I don't blame Mr. Smith in the least for taking an idealistic stand against Goldman and maximizing the impact of his stance. But I do believe that the New York Times set a dangerous precedent by publishing his op-ed and took an unfortunate step further towards the inevitable melding of third-party media and consumer-driven blogs.