Top Wall Street bankers to receive $70bn pay deals
Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package
* Simon Bowers
* Friday October 17 2008 20.08 BST
Demonstrators protesting in New York before the $700bn Wall Street bail-out earlier this month. Photograph: Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty images
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40.4bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.
Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup will pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted widespread criticism. The government cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay will be curbed.
Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased today when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join chief executive Josef Ackermann in waiving millions of euro in annual payouts.
The sums that continue to be spent by Wall Street firms on payroll, payoffs and - most controversially - bonuses appear to bear no relation to the heavy losses incurred by investors in the banks. Shares in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have declined by more than 45% since the start of the year; Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have fallen by more than 60%. JP MorganChase fell 6.4% and Lehman Brothers has collapsed.
At one point last week Morgan Stanley's $10.7bn pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.
In the first nine months of the year Citigroup, which employs thousands of staff in the UK, accrued $25.9bn for salaries and bonuses, an increase on the previous year of 4%. Earlier this week the bank accepted a $25bn investment by the US government as part of its bail-out plan.
At Goldman Sachs the figure was $11.4bn, Morgan Stanley $10.73bn, JP MorganChase $6.53bn and Merrill Lynch $11.7bn. At Merrill, which was on the point of going bust last month before being taken over by Bank of America, the amount accrued in the last quarter grew 76% to $3.49bn. At Morgan Stanley, the amount put aside for staff compensation also grew in the last quarter to the end of September by 3% to $3.7bn.
Days before it collapsed into bankruptcy protection a month ago Lehman Brothers revealed $6.12bn of staff pay plans in its corporate filings. These payouts, the bank insisted, were justified despite net revenue collapsing from $14.9bn to a net outgoing of $64m. None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans.
Behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."
Many critics of the investment banking model have questioned why firms continues to siphon off billions of dollars of bank earnings into annual bonus pools rather than using the funds to shore up the capital position of the crisis-stricken institutions. One banking source said: "That's a fair enough question - and it may well be that by the end of the year the banks start review the situation."
Much of the anger about investment banking bonuses has focused on boardroom executives such as former Lehman boss Dick Fuld, who was paid $485m in salary, bonuses and options between 2000 and 2007. Last year Merrill Lynch chairman Stan O'Neal retired after announcing losses of $8bn, taking a final pay deal worth $161m. Citigroup boss Chuck Prince left last year with a $38m in bonuses, shares and options after multibillion-dollar write-downs.
In Britain, Bob Diamond, Barclays president, is one of the few investment bankers whose pay is made public. Last year he received a salary of £250,000, but his total pay, including bonuses, reached £36m.
One London-based banking source, who worked for a US bank, said many in the City were expecting star traders to see little reduction in their bonuses.
"The real 'rain-makers' will not notice an impact. It will be the more middle-ranking people who will be really hit."
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