Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don Draper 'Quit' Working for Tobacco, Greg Smith 'Quit' Working for Goldman Sachs

In Mad Men's fourth season, which took place smack dab in the middle of the 1960s, cynical ad man Don Draper took out a full-page ad in the New York Times entitled, "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco," where he cited his conscience as a reason why his firm would no longer do business with tobacco companies.

Draper wrote that using tobacco products made people "unhappy . . . but there was a lot of money in it, a lot of money," money upon which his "entire business" depended. By refusing to work with tobacco companies, Draper wrote that he could now sleep soundly at night. His colleagues, none of whom he informed of his stunt before it was printed in the newspaper, were livid.

Flash-forward to today when I read the New York Times' op/ed page and saw Draper, circa 2012. Only there wasn't an ad about tobacco, it was a column about investment banking, specifically Goldman Sachs. It was written by Greg Smith, an executive with the investment banking at Goldman, whose environment Smith called "toxic and destructive." Smith's piece was entitled, "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs."

In a nutshell: Smith said Goldman Sachs doesn't care about clients, misleads them and guides them toward products that they don't need because the firm only cares about one thing: Money. Some excerpts:

"Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like selling my clients a product that it was wrong for them." (This mirrored Draper's statements that tobacco does nothing good for the people who buy it.)

"I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients," Smith wrote. "It's purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client's success or progress was not part of the thought process at all."

"It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off," he continued. "Over the last 12 months, I have seen five different managers refer to their own clients as 'muppets,' sometimes over internal e-mail."

Wonder if Smith is a fan of Mad Men . . . or Jerry Maguire for that matter. "Fewer clients, less money," sports agent Maguire wrote in his infamous mission statement which he distributed to his colleagues, admonishing them to put clients first. ". . . It was the 'me' I always wanted to be."

Does Smith feel like Draper and Maguire today?

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