Is CSR just another 3-letter acronym at Goldman Sachs?

If I told you that you could make six digits righto out of college while gaining valuable experience at one of the world’s most prestigious companies, would you do it? I think most college students would jump at that opportunity without a second thought, even though it is fairly broad. $100,000 is a lot of money to anyone, but to a 21 year-old it is nearly unbelievable. Many students think of money less in terms of dollars and more in terms of the number of Towne Tavern bar tabs that are left in their checking account. To think that someone is willing to pay a young person that much money when only a year before they may have taken a daily nap and gone to a house party or a bar four nights a week is pretty unbelievable. However, that is a regular occurrence at Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs was ranked #50 on the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in 2015. It is hard to argue that Goldman is a bad place to work. It is almost impossible to beat the compensation, analysts have an opportunity to learn from the best in the business and it is a nearly unbeatable line on anyone’s resume. But, as most people know, Goldman’s reputation is far from flawless. Even though Goldman has never actually killed an intern, they are not known for having the most relaxing work environment. They have been regularly criticized for maintaining a culture of arrogance, and have been satirized on more than one occasion, most notably by the twitter account @gselevator.

The clip above is a 60 Minutes interview with Greg Smith, a VP of Goldman Sachs, who quit via an Op-Ed in The New York Times titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs”. Greg Smith would not only disagree that Goldman is a great place to work from an employee perspective, he also thinks that the culture is deteriorating alongside the moral compass of the firm as a whole. Smith writes, “the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money” (Smith, New York Times March 2012). At a firm like Goldman, their personal relationships with clients are extremely important to their success, yet there are multiple stories like Greg Smith’s, that show a complete disregard for the fiduciary responsibility that Goldman has for its clients.

There is no doubt that Goldman Sachs is a terrific place to start a promising career or that they scored very well in the Forbes list categories like compensation, diversity, health care and other perks. When Goldman was started as a partnership they were most likely more concerned with the consequences of their actions. Nowadays, the longest section of the Goldman Sachs Wikipedia page is “Controversies”. After the 2008 financial crisis, subsequent bailout, and a litany of other charges including price manipulation and insider trading, they seem like a great place to work, as long as you can handle not always doing great work.

4 thoughts on “Is CSR just another 3-letter acronym at Goldman Sachs?”

  1. Patrick, I think you present an interesting case. Goldman is clearly a place that is great for some and not others. Working at Goldman is terrific from a learning and compensation standpoint, but may lead to some morally questionable moments. I think it is a trade-off people must decide prior to working there.


  2. Goldman definitely has a reputation of choosing money first. This shows more of an alliance to the shareholder theory, but as they are such successful business it’s hard to cast away their validity. There are better ways of achieving success, but its hard to argue with their results.


  3. The Forbes list clearly favors employee benefits over other factors.

    If you could work at a partnership versus a public corporation like GS, what would you choose? Would you prefer a less visible firm that still does put clients first if pay were the same?

    Also, anyone needs to look at salary AND costs. How much will you spend on wardrobe? Rent? eating out all the time? Your net savings can shrink pretty fast.


  4. I once went to a seminar at which a Goldman partner spoke. He claimed the average age at which Goldman employees retire (if they’ve stayed their for many years) is around 38, because their bodies can no longer handle the stress…


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