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Goldman Sachs family values

I just read the NY Times review of Charles Ellis’ new history of Goldman Sachs, The Partnership. Sounds like a fascinating book. Ellis credits the Goldman culture for the firm’s success over so many years. Hiring ambitious people from working-class backgrounds. “If their parents were postal clerks or groundskeepers, they were likely to work relentlessly to secure a better life – and help Goldman amass profits in the process.” Fair enough. But then this: “Tenacious to a fault, Goldman partners didn’t just work long hours; they came to think of the firm as their true family, with spouses and children paying the price.” In Ahead of the Curve, I criticize precisely this work first, family second culture. It’s fine to choose it for oneself, but what are the consequences for everyone else? I wrote: “It was disingenuous of Hank Paulson [the ex-CEO now Treasury Secretary] to say that it was up to individuals to make time in their life for their family, having been chief executive of a company, Goldman Sachs, that famously drives its employees to work endless hours. The MBAs who run these big companies are responsible for more than profits and losses, their own compensation and returns to shareholders. They set a cultural tone that affects everyone. Their disrespect for people’s time and personal lives has enormous consequences.”

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