He also said he was one of 10 employees at a bank of more than 30,000 selected to appear in a recruiting video.
In the essay, Smith said there are easy paths to becoming a leader at Goldman, including persuading clients to invest in products that the company wants to get rid of or that will bring the most profit to Goldman.
Another way, he said, is to "find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym."
John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T Corp., now the 11th-largest financial company in the U.S., said he suspected that pockets of Wall Street sacrificed their clients to save themselves when the system started unraveling in 2008.
But generally, he said, "We never ever want to do anything that was bad for our clients. Even if you create a profit in the short term, it will come back to haunt you in the long term."
Goldman's success has made it one of the most powerful engines of Wall Street. Goldman and Morgan Stanley were the only major investment banks to survive the financial crisis intact in 2008. The crisis crushed Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and almost killed Merrill Lynch.
But Wall Street's success and excess have also made it a lightning rod for lawsuits, regulatory probes and public wrath — and no doubt contributed to the white-hot popularity of Smith's essay online.
Cracks are also showing in Goldman as it navigates a weak economy and tighter government controls. In the third quarter of last year, it lost money for just the second time since going public. Revenue has fallen for each of the past seven quarters.
The influence of the bank, sometimes called the New York Yankees of finance, isn't limited to the private sector. Goldman is known for churning out leaders who run the world, earning its alumni praise for public service but also raising questions about whether bankers should oversee the industries that made them rich.
Henry Paulson, who was treasury secretary when the government devised its $700 billion bailout of the banks in 2008, is a former CEO. So is Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor who was at the helm of the brokerage MF Global when it collapsed.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, a vocal critic of Goldman who wrote the "vampire squid" line, said in a blog post that Smith's editorial might do what financial regulation and the Occupy Wall Street protest movement could not.
"Real change was always going to have to come from within Wall Street itself," he wrote, and the best way is for investors to see that "the Goldmans of the world aren't just arrogant sleazebags, they're also not terribly good at managing your money."
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