Greg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs executive who resigned in spectacular fashion two weeks ago by blasting the firm in an op-ed page article in the New York Times, is now shopping a book proposal to major publishers in New York, several people with knowledge of the conversations said.
Smith, who ran Goldman Sachs’ US equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, met with publishers last week, including imprints at several prominent houses.
According to several people who were present, Smith described his book as a coming-of-age story, the tale of someone who came into the business with good intentions and sky-high ideals that were ultimately pierced by Goldman’s obsessive focus on making money.
It would also be a story of the history of Goldman Sachs and the perceived change in the culture of the firm that left Smith, a native of South Africa who lived in London, disillusioned and eager to leave after spending almost 12 years there.
Smith is working with an agent, Paul Fedorko, a publishing veteran who works for N.S. Bienstock, a talent agency. Fedorko did not return a call seeking comment. Smith did not respond to an e-mail.
In his article in the Times on March 14, Smith wrote of what he saw as a negative shift in Goldman’s culture, which he said had once been “the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years.”
“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,” he wrote. “I no longer have the pride, or the belief.”
The article exploded on Wall Street and beyond, reviving a debate about ethics and greed in the financial world. After it was published, Goldman responded by saying Smith’s assertions did not reflect the firm’s values or culture.
Publishers who are bullish on the book’s potential compared it with House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street, the 2009 book by William D. Cohan that retold the fall of Bear Stearns, or to the classic Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, by Michael Lewis.
There is a ripe market for books that are targeted at the business and financial communities, groups that include many affluent, highly educated book buyers.
In meetings, Smith came across as mild-mannered, polite, spare with details, but sincere, publishers said.
“He appeared to be a guy with integrity,” one publishing executive said.
However, several publishers said that they had nagging concerns about the book. Among them was the thicket of legal issues that could be involved with a former employee writing a damning book about a large, deep-pocketed company.
One publisher said there were doubts about Smith’s ability to write an accessible narrative about his experience working in derivatives, an area that to a general reader is arcane at best.
Another was skeptical that Smith, as a mid-level employee, would be able to provide enough compelling details to make the book a gripping glimpse inside a Wall Street power.