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Goldman Sachs - the Muppet is back

by: (Associate Director, Research and Development) on

In March this year, I wrote a blog on a chap named Greg Smith, who resigned from the role of Executive Director at Goldman Sachs in spectacular fashion, with a letter of resignation published in the NY Times

I’d love to say I was the only person who wrote about it, but that was far from the case. It was big news at the time, trending over LinkedIn and making mainstream broadcast headlines.


It seemed this story was indicative of the escalating public perception of ‘Banks’ (generically) at the time. They were taking your money and laughing at you. Corporate Culture was at an all-time low.

One of the key points commentators highlighted in the Greg Smith piece was the use of the word ‘muppets’ in relation to customers.

(For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it was suggested this was used in a derogatory way, not favourably comparing clients to Jim Henson’s most famous creations). 



So, getting to the point – why revisit this issue ?

Because it’s hotting up.

Mr Smith’s book entitled ‘Why I Left Goldman Sachs’ is set for publication on 22 October.

Maybe in an effort to draw first blood, it seems that Goldman Sachs has provided some interesting information around Mr Smiths tenure. This is reported on the Financial Times website (subscription required).


Apparently, Goldman internally instigated a ‘muppet hunt’.

They interviewed dozens of staff and trawled through millions of emails, locating around 4,000 ‘muppet’ references. But it seems that 99% of these related to the 2011 Muppet Movie (obviously a lot of Henson fans at Goldmans).

Furthermore, the FT reports that Mr Smith had pushed for two promotions (which he did not receive) and had reacted badly to the bonus he was awarded.

It was also suggested that the firm found no evidence of Mr Smith reporting cultural concerns prior to the two days before his departure. A description of Mr Smith’s book says Mr Smith had warned nine Partners he had these concerns.

Essentially, the firm appears to be painting the picture of a disgruntled employee.

PR & Brand Management ?

As I said in my previous blog, I’m not familiar with this situation beyond what I’ve read.

What is interesting is to me the cycle of claim and counter-claim. And how it tends to come out around the time of impending news stories (ie: the book release).

It shows the weight behind the media and public perception of events and the managing of brands and reputations.

In the comments section of this FT.com article, a number of people have posted comments around the veracity and impartiality of an internal investigation.

That’s not for me to question. I just thought it was worth re-highlighting that the story wasn’t over. In fact, far from it – I imagine you’ll be hearing more about it from both sides come the 22 October.

The Real Victims

Finally, I think we should spare a thought for the real victims here.

I am of course talking about the Muppets. If Fozzy and Miss Piggy are reading these stories, I’m sure they’d just want everyone to Kermit (calm it) down a bit.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist that….

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