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Greg Smith's Goldman Sachs Resignation Letter Was 'Vetted' By New York Times

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Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifies before a Senate investigative committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in this April 27, 2010 file photo.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifies before a Senate investigative committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in this April 27, 2010 file photo.

NEW YORK -- Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith quit his job Wednesday in the most public way possible -- on the op-ed page of The New York Times.

In a blistering takedown of his now-former employer, Smith wrote that the environment at Goldman Sachs "is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it."

Andy Rosenthal, the Times editorial page editor, told The Huffington Post in an email that Smith "contacted us" about writing the piece. In the letter, Smith accuses Goldman Sachs of putting its own financial interests ahead of those of its clients and even singles out CEO Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn as responsible for losing "hold of the firm's culture on their watch."

The resignation letter -- aptly titled "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs" -- immediately sent shockwaves through the business world and tore up the Twitterverse.

CNBC's Jim Cramer tweeted:

Jim Cramer
Look, the $GS piece was devastating to me. I don't want to believe it. But it was a bitter pill and a sad one

Business Insider's Joe Wiesenthal called it "the buzzy Wall Street story of the day" and "sure to be another PR nightmare for Goldman Sachs." And the Times' own DealBook has been live-blogging the fallout.

When asked about the huge media response, Rosenthal said that "the whole idea of Op-Ed is to generate debate and discussion, so the more, the better."

In a news story, it would be customary to ask Goldman Sachs for comment ahead of publishing such pointed criticism. However, the opinion page doesn't always operate in the same way. In this case, it's unclear if Smith or the Times reached out to Goldman Sachs ahead of time.

But Rosenthal maintains the Times did its due diligence. "We checked him out," Rosenthal said in an email. "It was great material for Op-Ed, so after we did the vetting, and the usual editing, we ran it."

Rosenthal did not respond to follow-up questions about the vetting process, and deputy editorial page editor Trish Hall, who oversees op-eds, did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. A Goldman Sachs spokesperson told The Huffington Post that the Times did not reach out to the company before publication.

After publication, Goldman Sachs responded to the Times, albeit to a reporter in the news side of the operation rather than the op-ed page.

"We disagree with the views expressed, which we don't think reflect the way we run our business," a Goldman Sachs spokesman said. "In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves."

Blankfein and Cohn today circulated an internal memo that was picked up by the Wall Street Journal's website, in which the executives offer evidence to refute Smith's claims. About the letter's publication, they state:

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But, it is unfortunate that an individual opinion about Goldman Sachs is amplified in a newspaper and speaks louder than the regular, detailed and intensive feedback you have provided the firm and independent, public surveys of workplace environments.

UPDATE: This article was updated Friday to reflect that the Times did not contact Goldman Sachs prior to publication.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article stated that The New York Times Business section was live-blogging the fallout from Greg Smith's op-ed, when it was in fact DealBook, the Times' business blog.

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