Goldman Sachs to trawl its system for 'muppet' jibes

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Goldman Sachs is combing through staff emails to see if anyone ever referred to the bank's clients as "muppets", as alleged by the renegade employee Greg Smith last week.

The hunt was ordered by the chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, following the dramatic resignation of Mr Smith last week, which he delivered in the form of a highly embarrassing opinion piece in the New York Times.

There is a "toxic and destructive" environment at Goldman, Mr Smith wrote, in which clients are regarded as no more than sources of profit and are often referred to in derogatory ways by bankers and traders.

His piece was notable in particular for bringing global attention to the fact that British people use "muppet" to mean a stupid person. He said traders would often call their clients "muppets", sometimes even in internal emails.

On the conference call with partners this week, Mr Blankfein, pictured, said the company was taking Mr Smith's claims seriously and was conducting a review of his assertions, including the email scan.

It was not clear when the email search would be completed or what actions, if any, Goldman would take if the search does turn up derogatory comments. The bank declined to comment beyond the statement from Mr Blankfein and his deputy, Gary Cohn, last week, in which they noted: "In a company of our size, it is not shocking that some people could feel disgruntled. But that does not and should not represent our firm of more than 30,000 people."

Mr Smith's claim that the culture of Goldman has radically changed has been disputed. Some say that Goldman has always existed to maximise its own profits and that clients have always understood this.

And Mr Smith himself has gone to ground since delivering his resignation. Speculation is swirling over his next moves. Although he is a 12-year veteran of Goldman and rose to trade US equity derivatives for the bank from London, his public betrayal of the firm means he is unlikely to land a job at another major firm.

Alan Sklover, a New York employment lawyer, said that Mr Smith is unlikely to be bound by the sort of "non-disparagement" clauses that would be typical if he had negotiated his exit or received a pay-off.

"He won't be able to reveal any client information, or secret planning strategies, anything viewed as valuable, and he will also have to watch out for false statements of fact, but apart from that the man is free to speak and to write – and no doubt he will be in demand, now he has made himself an instant celebrity," Mr Sklover said.