As the financial world reels from Greg Smith’s public condemnation of Goldman Sachs’ allegedly declining ethical practices, both Forbes and The Wrap claim that the resignation letter—delivered in the form of a New York Times op-ed—came straight out of an episode of “Mad Men.” For the uninitiated (and those in need of a refresher after the show’s 17-month hiatus), the penultimate episode of season four featured Don Draper writing a similarly public, full-page ad (also in the New York Times) to explain why his ad agency would no longer work with tobacco companies.
But how do Smith’s “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” and Draper’s “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” really compare?
Look at both openings. Draper began:
Recently my advertising agency ended a long relationship with Lucky Strike cigarettes, and I’m relieved.
For over 25 years we devoted ourselves to peddling a product for which good work is irrelevant, because people can’t stop themselves from buying it. A product that never improves, that causes illness, and makes people unhappy. But there was money in it. A lot of money. In fact, our entire business depended on it. We knew it wasn’t good for us, but we couldn’t stop.
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.
And both deal with the subjects of toxicity (literal and metaphorical) and the betrayal of clients. Smith says:
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.
…here was my chance to be someone who can sleep at night because I know what I’m selling doesn’t kill my customers.
While there are certainly some similarities, “Why I’m Leaving Goldman Sachs” hardly reads as a promo for next week’s “Mad Men” premiere.
The major difference is that In “Mad Men,” Lucky Strikes was the one to end its relationship with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. And the agency tried (and failed) to land another tobacco account. Draper’s letter isn’t so much a resignation as the calculated slight of a spurned lover.
In Smith’s op-ed, he is clearly doing the dumping.
Here’s “Why I’m quitting Tobacco”:
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