Wall Street bonuses to rise 40%

Analysts thought 2009 would be a good year for bankers, but it turns out it will be great

By 247 wallst Nov 5, 2009 8:05AM

CEO © Roy McMahon/CorbisThere has been plenty of evidence that firms like Goldman Sachs (GS) have had such huge profits that their bonus payouts may be at all-time highs.

 

The federal government has systematically begun to control bank pay packages. The Treasury “pay czar” is effectively controlling compensation at companies which still owe TARP money. The Fed is pressuring other large financial firms to tie pay to risk.

 

None of those efforts seems to be working well, because bankers are ignoring the signals from Washington.


A new compensation survey described in The Wall Street Journal predicts that Wall Street incentive pay will rise 40% this year. For those in the fixed-income part of the industry, the increase could be closer to 60%.

 

Data about pay packages will be available, in some cases, as banks release their proxies. It is safe to say that the study and other data from Wall Street show that being a financier was very rewarding this year.

 

What is not so clear is whether there will be a “clash of the titans” of sorts between the CEOs of Wall Street's biggest firms and Congress?


Many in Congress have taken the stance that the financial community is entirely at fault for the collapse of the credit markets. These politicians argue that greed was the key ingredient that caused bankers to take unnecessary risks.

 

Wall Street executives will rely on three arguments to counter Congress. The first is that only a small number of bankers were responsible for the trouble in the mortgage-backed and leveraged deal markets. Why should all of of the other bright bankers on Wall St. be punished?


The second argument is heard over and over again. Underpaid banking stars will leave for private equity firms and hedge funds leaving the largest banks on Wall Street stripped of their best talent.

 

The last argument the big banks will make for controlling their own pay is the most compelling. The SEC has set up governance rules that force boards to be responsible for how senior management is paid and to set the tone for the compensation of other executives. Why is Congress able to usurp the rights of sovereign boards elected by independent shareholders?

 

Top Stocks writer Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

 

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