Last month, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said
that Wall Street needs to create a compensation system that changes the
perception that "it's the individual that's the hero" in order to fix a
culture that created the financial crisis. His company appears to be
following through--in some form at least--on that promise. As reported
by The Wall Street Journal's Aaron Lucchetti
the firm will be doling out 10% to 25% less for bonuses to some of its
senior executives this year in response to "turbulent" market conditions
and corporate restructuring. The move is part of a larger effort to
rebuild and trim its "bloated"
compensation levels. The pay cuts will help stave off layoffs in a
company that last year paid twenty-five of its biggest earners seven- or
eight-figure pay packages, according to New York Post
sources. Business pundits digest, and dissect, the news:
- Why We Might Never See Goldman-Style Bonuses Again Going from a "boom-and-bust" firm to steady brokerage business would be Gorman's goal at least, figures Shira Ovide
at The Wall Street Journal. The firm has been "very active" in
compensation reform in recent years, overhauling the bonus system,
emphasizing salaries for its senior officers and making pay subject to "clawbacks"
in the event that "the company's profits later proved ephemeral." But
this won't be the end of Washington's "spotlight" on executive pay, and "all
that means we may never see again the $69 million lofty level that
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein received for 2007, the biggest ever
payday for someone in a Wall Street corner office. Blankfein's record
seems safe. Or at least until people forget about that little financial
- This Might Be a One-Off Thing Susanne Craig,
writing at The New York Times' Deal Book, notes that the Gorman
believes "selective, short-term pain on compensation will give the firm
credibility with shareholders and help the firm in the long term"
(Gorman used the words "the year of differentiation"--i.e. this year is exceptional). Morgan Stanley
will pay out 50.4 percent of its net revenue in compensation and
benefits and employees who "did well" this year will get paid
competitively. Craig reports: "Divisions like equities, which includes
stock trading, and investment banking performed well in 2010, and those
employees can expect decent bonuses, these people said. But traders in
the firm's fixed-income department, which did not have a great year, may
see smaller pay packages, these people say."
- Morgan Stanley
Isn't Alone In This Restructuring "The cut in investment bank bonuses
may not be unique to Morgan Stanley," reports Bloomberg's Michael J. Moore,
who speaks with Michael Karp, a CEO of an executive search and
compensation consultant firm. "This is going to be Street-wide, not just
one firm," Karp was quoted saying. "The revenue hasn’t been as great as
last year, and coupled with a tough regulatory environment and banks
being closely watched by governments globally, it’s not an easy pay
environment." Moore also notes that compensation expenses at Goldman
Sachs Group in the first nine months of this year are down 21 percent
from last year.
- This May Be More Practical Than Moral Financial Times
staff reporters note that there is still "no momentum" behind a deal to
limit the sizes of bonuses in the us, where the Federal Reserve has
opted for a "principles-based approach." European policies on the other
hand, "have introduced numerical rules, requiring at least 40 per cent
of a bonus to be deferred for at least three years." The reason why
bonuses are expected to be lower this year--by as much as 20
percent--are a result of "weaker revenues rather than
self-restraint." They conclude, based on statements by senior bankers,
that "it is increasingly apparent that global investment banks will have
to pay their staff differently across the leading financial centres of
London, New York and Hong Kong."
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