Goldman chief responds to op-ed by former employee

NEW YORK Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:37pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein issued an internal response to the biting opinion column in Wednesday's New York Times that was penned by a former employee who said the company's culture has become "toxic and destructive."

In a statement to employees, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, Blankfein and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn hit back at accusations made by Greg Smith, a former vice president, that the investment bank has become more focused on profits than meeting the needs of its clients.

"We were disappointed to read the assertions made by this individual that do not reflect our values, our culture and how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think about the firm and the work it does on behalf of our clients," Blankfein and Cohn said.

"In a company of our size, it is not shocking that some people could feel disgruntled," they added.

The executives' response also said Goldman provides employees with "a mechanism for anonymously expressing their concerns" and misgivings, and it is not aware that Smith used that system to air his grievances prior to issuing his very public letter of resignation in the editorial pages of the New York Times.

"To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money," Smith said of his employer for the past 12 years.

(Reporting By Katya Wachtel; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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