Sam Leith Sam Leith

Goldman Sachs and the culling of the surplus elites

(Credit: Getty images)

Goldman Sachs laid off 3,200 employees with as little as half an hour’s notice. It will probably please the petty, pinched, Schadenfreude-prone sort of little people who have never worked for a predatory investment bank to imagine the scenes. I know it did me.

All these huffy guys dressed like Christian Bale in American Psycho, ties wrenched from necks, belongings tumbled into cardboard boxes (lucky gonks, family photos, stress balls, wrinkled twists of cocainey paper and whatnot), stepping out on to Wall Street like goddamn civilians, faces black with fury. Masters of the Universe demoted at a stroke to citizens of the universe. 

It’s quite the retrospective performance review

What’s more unusual is what happened next. Nothing so became them, it seems, as the fact of their going. It turned out that these 3,200 employees, far from no longer just being a drag on the vampire squid’s bottom line, have made the company vastly more money by their departures than the savings on their salaries alone. The weird thing, the alarming thing, the mind-boggling thing, is this: immediately after the layoffs were announced, Wall Street’s enthusiasm increased Goldman’s market cap by $3.3 billion (£2.7 billion). Ponder that, for a moment: that’s a bit more than a million dollars of value added per employee sacked. 

It’s quite the retrospective performance review. I’ve been fired from all sorts of places over the years. And, fair enough: I am pretty useless. I don’t flatter myself that my absence will have much damaged the value of any of the companies that have taken the wise decision to see the back of me. But I have just enough self-respect to doubt that getting rid of me would at a stroke have made the company thousands of pounds more valuable.  

These ex-Goldmanites are, reportedly, harbingers of a new community in the workforce described as the ‘surplus elites’. More

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