Throughout the mayhem there was a sense of pride on

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Throughout the mayhem, there was a sense of pride on the trading floor about one of our own being appointed to head Treasury. Because of his background at the helm of Goldman Sachs, I think there were few people in the world who would have been better equipped to make real-time decisions on such difficult financial problems as Hank Paulson. At times I have shuddered at the thought of what it would have been like for either John Snow or Paul O’Neill, Paulson’s two immediate predecessors, to have been running Treasury during the peak of the financial crisis. I think history will judge Hank well. As the markets continued to crater that fall and winter, it continued to feel as though the whole financial system might fail at any minute. A persistent feeling of doom hung over the trading floor, where very little trading was going on. To their credit, Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn were proactive in trying to rally the troops during the crisis: they were frequently present on the trading floor, and they showed strong leadership. But true leadership was coming from only the very top of the firm. Our immediate leaders, the partners, were a completely different story. Many seemed to be holed up in their bunkers. I remember a period of several weeks when one of my bosses, Paul Conti—a guy who, by title anyway, was a leader—did not seem to be calling clients, was not talking to his employees, did not try anything (as far as I could tell) to pump up the troops. The most impressive thing I saw him do during the crisis was put himself through one of those weeklong juice cleanses that had been trendy among the senior people at Goldman that summer and into the fall. Most people did it to lose weight. Conti, a weightlifter who went to the gym every day, seemed to be undertaking the program as an act of supreme self-discipline. I remember sitting right behind him when he decided to start his regimen. It was Sunday evening, September 14, and we were all in the office waiting to see if Lehman would go under. I thought, What kind of hardened motherfucker puts himself through this during the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression? Every day for a week—through Lehman, Merrill, AIG, and “breaking the buck”—Conti took delivery of “six 100% organic vegetable and fruit juices” from the BluePrintCleanse company, and every day he dutifully drank all six bottles. He didn’t have one bite of solid food for seven days. This did not help his mood. Mr. Cleanse was Brooklyn-born and raised, a former college football player, equal parts intensity and passivity. During the crisis, unfortunately, it was the latter quality that surfaced. In retrospect, I can understand that he was scared, but did he think a partner’s only responsibility was collecting big bonuses when times were good? Everyone on the team talked for weeks about how disappointing the partners on the floor were during the darkest days of 2008. Now was the time to step up and show everyone why they made the big bucks, why they had been appointed leaders. Instead, Mr. Cleanse sat
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