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Goldman, Google execs resign in public

It seems executive craze of 2012 is to lay out heart on your sleeve – and extract a little utu – with a public resignation letter.

Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith quit yesterday.

His bosses could read about it in the paper.

Mr Smith wrote a guest editorial for The New York Times lacerating his company. He alleged it now puts its own financial interests ahead of those of clients, who were often described as “muppets”.

The byline tartly notes, Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director.

Mr Smith’s very public attack on his employer came on the heels of a similar diatribe from one James Whittaker, an executive who says he keynoted four Google events during his time with the company as a director of engineering.

Since co-founder Larry Page took over as CEO last year, Google had lost its innovative culture. The company had become obsessed by a series of misguided efforts to peg back Facebook's lead in social networking.

Products like Wave, Buzz and Google+ were "half-assed", and the company had become overly focused on ads.

"Truth is I’ve never been much on advertising," Mr Whittaker wrote.

"I don’t click on ads. When Gmail displays ads based on things I type into my email message it creeps me out."

Mr Smith’s parting shot makes thumping good read, as does Mr Whittaker's.

A little biff back
But, as ever, there are two sides to every story.

In Mr Whittaker's case, more cynical observers will note he is now employed by Microsoft – a Google rival that holds a stake in Facebook.

And this morning, through the Wall Street Journal and other media, Goldman Sachs hit back at Mr Smith.

Chief executive Lloyd Blankfein implied Mr Smith had exaggerated his standing at the company.

His title was vice president, but thousands at the 30,000-employee company hold that title. And while Mr Smith was in charge of a derivatives division that spanned continents, he was the sole staff member working in that division.

The Journal also notes that Mr Smith’s smaller bonus this year was, apparently, “a point of friction.”

Que Sera, Que Sera
Google has always been laser-focused on ad revenue.

And allegations of greed at Goldman pre-date Lloyd Blankfein's CEO run during the global financial crisis.

Wall Street broker and banks' alleged disregard for clients was the subject of the 1980s classic Liar's Poker.

And as business blogger Joshua Brown noted today, rumours of malfeasance at Goldman date back to the 1920s. 

It could be, perhaps, that Google and Goldman Sachs have not changed that much, at least in the past two years.

But Mr Smith and Mr Whittaker might have become a little jaded.

MORE:

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs - Greg Smith (New York Times)

Why I left Google - James Whittaker (official Microsoft blog)

Greg Smith's Facebook page

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

I agree with this. Google ads is creppy.

I'd be more impressed if the ex-Goldman VP returned his bonuses accrued over the years. It's all well and good to cr.p over your former employer, but talk is cheap if you're happy to hold on to your own, doubtless, generous compensation. And I've been using Bing for months now, in an attempt to steer clear of Google's prying.

Liar's Poker was Lehman

Liar's poker was actually Saloman Brothers

Hasnt the NZ Government appointment Goldmans to sell Genesis Energy. DOes that make the Government or Treasury muppets ?

Neither would have done that if they didn't feel they would get a better paying job as a result of the publicity.

You can fool some people some of the time but not all the people all the time. Eventually the Chickens come Home To Roost so to speak. It is also called Karma. The Older generation have longevity for a reason I believe. There is plenty of RICH PEOPLE in the cemetary. The culture is not smart just sneaky. Hope their culture of self interest first, last and always ceases before the proponents do.

Sorry folks, but very few companies allow their employees to spend 20% of their time on hobbies. Thus, the original Google startup culture was bound to fail. For that, a person needs to work for a national lab or some other govt operation where the average work week is 36 hours. Then, they can do some 10-12 hours extra, on the side as a hobby, without impacting their deliverables. One other option may be, in being an actuary, where after one passes his 9 exams, a lot of time is freed up for pet projects.

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