Goldman Sachs is going to search through its employees' emails for any mentions of the word "muppet" to make sure they're not mistreating clients, which seems like a silly way to enforce good conduct. The idea is to crack down on a culture of Goldman workers mistreating clients for profit, but an email scan seems kind of pointless because it's pretty clear that culture already exists.
According to Reuters, the muppet hunt is more fallout from former Goldman executive director Greg Smith's op-ed resignation last week, in which he said Goldman managing directors called clients "muppets" over email (Reuters points out that "In the United States, 'muppet' brings to mind lovable puppets such as Kermit the Frog, but in Britain 'muppet' is slang for a stupid person," a useful distinction). Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein announced the scan on a conference call with partners, Reuters reported, but "it was not clear when the search would be completed or what actions, if any, Goldman would take if the search turns up derogatory comments."
It seems quite likely the search will turn up derogatory comments. As many pointed out in the wake of Smith's op-ed, the revelation that financial managers view their clients with a certain amount of disdain isn't exactly groundbreaking. Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal put it neatly the day Smith's column dropped: "None of this is new, man. I mean, you go back to Michael Lewis and Salomon Brothers and you're so stupid you could be a client. I mean, this has been around forever." The next day, Wall Street Journal columnist David Weidner wrote: "After all is said and done in the global economy, customers always have been and always will be 'muppets.' " Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't sound surprised to hear Goldman traders' estimation of their clients. "I think that is fair," he told radio host John Gambling, as long as their doing their job of making money for their clients.
The point is, nobody's surprised that employees at Goldman or any other financial firm might sneer at the people who hire them to do their investing for them. But apparently Goldman feels it has to start somewhere, and a muppet search will at least probably turn up results.