William Tells.

He’s Number Two, so he tries harder. Haverford’s back-up choice after a small group of students and professors hounded out Robert Birgereau as commencement speaker was William Bowen, who has been president of Princeton and the Mellon Foundation. Ol’ Bill got up there at the event and let it rip.

He directly addressed the people who demanded that Birgereau apologize for calling out the police during an Occupy protest at Berkeley, and that he meet nine conditions that they set in order for him to be able to come to Haverford, including “publicly apologizing, supporting reparations for victims, and writing a letter to Haverford students explaining his position on the events and ‘what you learned from them.'” Quoth Bowen in his speech to Haverford graduates:

“I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau’s handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of demands… In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments.”

Actually, the real story here is how Haverford blindsided the Nine Conditions people. Did they even have time to find out that Bowen is a “Trustee on the Board of the Trust Committee that oversees the Rockefeller family trusts”? Even if they had time to find this out, did they have time to set forth a series of conditions (‘Write a letter to Haverford students explaining your position on robber barons and what you have learned from consorting with them.’) Bowen needed to meet before he could appear at Haverford?

In a New Yorker article about sexual abuse allegations at Horace Mann…

… the author shares a memory of his time there in the ‘seventies.

Assigned to [Robert] Berman for tenth-grade English, I took a seat one September morning alongside sixteen or seventeen other boys. We waited in silence as he sat at his desk, chain-smoking Benson & Hedges cigarettes and watching us from behind dark glasses. Finally, Mr. Berman stood up, took a fresh stick of chalk, climbed onto his chair, and reached above the blackboard to draw a horizontal line on the paint. “This,” he said, after a theatrical pause, “is Milton.” He let his hand fall a few inches, drew another line, and said, “This is Shakespeare.” Another line, lower, on the blackboard: “This is Mahler.” And, just below, “Here is Browning.” Then he took a long drag on his cigarette, dropped the chalk onto the floor, and, using the heel of his black leather loafer, ground it into the wooden floorboards. “And this, gentlemen,” he said, “is you.”

Scathing Online…

law professor.

Too Many Scandals.

Out goes the chancellor of the University of North Carolina, zillions of sports, academic fraud, and misuse of funds scandals trailing him. His firing/resignation probably means there are yet more scandals looming.

This local commentary is interesting, along the lines of Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play:

Otherwise, Thorp seemed [to] have the makings of an excellent chancellor.

When did you stop beating your wife?

Never! And this book tells you how to keep doing it.

Full of helpful, step-by-step, descriptions of violence against women, A Gift for the Muslim Couple is sold out at this bookstore, but I’m sure it’s on back order.

CLEAN-UP CREW, RING SIX!

When UD was a tyke, her mother, who bred dogs, took her to many dog shows up and down the east coast. Once, while her mother was gazing at handlers running English Cocker Spaniels round and round and round, UD wandered away and got lost. (What’s the definition of trauma if you grew up in Bethesda, Maryland? Getting lost at a dog show.)

The one thing UD took away from all those shows was a phrase she heard over and over again at them: CLEAN-UP CREW, RING ONE. Or two or whatever. UD seems to have been impressed that a group of people existed whose function was to rush about cleaning up dog shit.

With the soon to be infamous “muppet” letter published in today’s New York Times, corporate clean-up crews are pressing pooper scoopers into service all over the country. Let’s see if we can help them. Here’s the mess in the ring. Here’s what Brown University’s president, until very recently a highly paid member of the Goldman Sachs board of trustees, was in with.

Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence. [Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Nice bit of humor there.]

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. 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. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore. [He'd actually have done better not to list the particular accomplishments - it edges toward boasting, and humility is the idea here.] [Update: See? A lot of people are having fun with this.]

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.

Hokay, so what’s corporate clean-up going to do?

Oh, you know.

So do I.

First, it’s going to impugn the guy. Secret resentments; he was close to retirement; he was increasingly irrelevant and he knew it so he thought he’d take a last potshot. (Damn! Traitors everywhere.)

And – if that’s how he feels, why did he stay so long? Cashing in baby, cashing in, just like everyone else! Do you know how much money he made last year? Twenty, fifty mil, maybe? If he’s so pure, we await his return of the cash…

Stuff like that.

And anyway! Muppets is a term of endearment.

***************************

Notice that one thing his conscience couldn’t take anymore was looking college students in the eye and telling them Goldman was a good place to work when he knew they weren’t exactly going to be turned into model citizens.

Well, he can stop worrying about that. These students come from universities whose boards of trustees and presidents have been in bed with Goldman and Goldman veterans for a long time. So…

Muppets of Barnard College! I give you your president, Debora Spar, Goldman Sachs board of trustees! Goldman will be giving her around $500,000 a year to do … pretty much what Brown University’s Ruth Simmons did. Pretty much nothing. Pretty much rubber stamp hundreds of millions in compensation each year for Goldman executives.

See, she’s a muppet too.

****************************************

Update:
Live-blogging the Muppet Show:

TO SAVE GOLDMAN SACHS, LLOYD BLANKFEIN MUST GO

shouts a headline that just appeared at Forbes.

B-b-but…! What happens to Barnard College in that case? The reason its president got on the Goldman board is that Blankfein’s wife – until recently herself a member of Barnard’s board – seems to have put her there.   This is from 2011:

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein’s wife, Laura, is a Barnard College alumna and is listed on the school’s website as a member of the board of trustees. She has resigned that post, Stephen Cohen, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, said today. The Lloyd & Laura Blankfein Foundation donated $50,000 to Barnard College in fiscal 2010, which ended Jan. 31, 2010, and $25,000 in the previous year, according to the nonprofit’s federal tax filings.

You put me on the Barnard BOT; I put you on the Goldman BOT. And look at those numbers, will you? Blankfein’s been making around fifty million dollars in compensation each year for many years. Can you believe he and his wife were willing to part with – let’s do the math – $75,000 for Barnard?  Who said greed?  Shut up about greed!

*************************

Favorite headline so far:

Goldman Sachs Exec Suddenly Realizes His Company Is Evil, Quits in NYT Op-Ed

*************************
G is for Goldman, it’s good enough for me!

Be proud, Barnard muppets, of your very own Cookie Monster!

The real muppets, in this story, are Goldman’s board members, who have never had any real control over how the company is run. And, frankly, never will. The most remunerative skill, at Goldman, is the ability to flatter someone into believing that they’re incredibly important and clever and sophisticated, even as you’re getting that person to do exactly what’s in your own best interest. No one rises to lead Goldman Sachs who doesn’t have that skill. And you can be sure that Lloyd Blankfein uses it on the board every time he meets with them.

**********************************

We promise it’ll never happen again: Andy Borowitz writes a Lloyd Blankfein response.

At Goldman, we pride ourselves on our ability to scour the world’s universities and business schools for the finest sociopaths money will buy. Once in our internship program, these youths are subjected to rigorous evaluations to root out even the slightest evidence of a soul. But, as the case of Mr. Smith shows, even the most time-tested system for detecting shreds of humanity can blow a gasket now and then. For that, we can only offer you our deepest apology and the reassurance that one good apple won’t spoil the whole bunch.

“The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency.”

“The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.”

David Brooks on the new Know-Nothings.

MY PATHOGRAPHY IS MORE PATHOGENIC THAN YOUR PATHOGRAPHY CLAIM DUELING PATHOGRAPHERS

From Minnpost.com:

According to writer Nicole Johns, certain [anorexia memoirs] romanticize the illness and actually encourage readers to develop or deepen an illness. In her own contribution to the genre, “Purge: Rehab Diaries,” Johns singles out Marya Hornbacher’s “Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia” as a problem book.

” ‘Wasted’ is rife with suggestions on how to develop an eating disorder and stay sick. It was obviously written while the author was in a disordered state of mind. During treatment, counselors confiscated worn copies of ‘Wasted’ from patients, because many patients were using it to trigger themselves and stay sick,” says Johns, who admits she herself used “Wasted” to “further my eating disorder.”

These are fighting words — especially considering that Johns and Hornbacher are both graduates of the University of Minnesota’s MFA program, and Hornbacher lectured at the U while Johns was a student. “When I tried to discuss this with Ms. Hornbacher after her lecture, she claimed that ‘Wasted’ helped more people than it hurt,” says Johns.

This is shaping up to be a real battle of the books. Wasted partisans have now lined up against Purgers, with Hurl, Skeleton, and Trashed readers sure to join the fight.

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