U.S. Stocks Stand Still, UBS Bonuses Fall to Zero, J.P. Morg

by Derek Loosvelt | March 03, 2009

  • My Vault
While traders, pension holders, CEOs, and everyone in between with an interest in the fate of the stock market takes a deep breath and a semi-celebratory rather than extremely-depressive sip from their favorite beverage this evening as a result of the big U.S stock indices, if not skyrocketing, at least stabilizing after yesterday’s freefall to levels not seen since 1997, there have been a few developments in the ongoing salary/bonus question facing (and plaguing) Wall Street.

Yesterday, UBS, the bank now known for its tax evading skills as much as for its Swiss-ness, announced that its pay structure will look a lot more like that of the rest of the corporate world’s. The bank currently being harangued by the U.S. government for helping the wealthy hide their income said it will boost annual salaries of some executives from about $170,00 to $430,000, and will not hand out the historically huge bonu$es that bankers ride off into the new year with—in fact, the bonuses will be incredibly small: $0.

I’d expect other banks to follow UBS’s lead on the upfront-loading of pay and taking away of the back-end, incentive-based pay, and if this becomes an official trend, it could continue until the depression/recession/general rough-as-heck-times are well behind us.

And today it was revealed that a couple of head honchos used to taking home millions of dollars in cash, stock and other incentives at the end of each year were forced to bank paltry sums, in comparison, for 2008. Take Kenny Lewis, for example. The Bank of America top dog (who can be seen in a recent video interview with the Financial Times speaking about the Merrill deal— Goldman and Morgan Stanley also wanted a piece of Mother Merrill, which is perhaps why BofA was quick to buy the bank, which has since booked ridiculously astronomical losses—as well as the cash he took from the U.S. which Lewis admits to being a tactical error on his part; if he could take a time machine back a few months, he’d only have taken about $10 billion, not $20 billion—you were just $10 bill off, Kenny, don't sweat it) made $9 million in 2008, a 56 percent slide versus the $20.4 million he made in ’07.

Another beloved bigwig, Blackstone’s Stephen “Birthday Boy” Schwarzman, revealed his comp for 2008 (officially, his company unveiled the figure in an SEC statement, along with the firm’s not-so-great year-end earnings; that’s what happens when you go public, you have to let these things out of the bag), and it was only $179,650,000 below his 2007 package: that is, he made $350,000 in ’08 and $180,000,000 in ’07. I sure hope he didn’t invest in any Ponzi schemes.

Despite the 2008 salary cuts and losses at their firms, neither Lewis nor the Birthday Boy have gone near announcing the comp cut taken by their buddy over at Citi, Vikram “The One Buck” Pandit, who is profiled in the current issue of New York magazine in an article entitled “The Most Powerless Powerful Man on Wall Street: How Citi CEO Vikram Pandit finally reached the top—just in time to see the financial system, Citigroup, and all his dreams come crashing down.”

Back to schemes: in the case against everybody’s favorite evildoer miraculously still not behind bars, a suit brought by the city of Fairfield, Connecticut against two hedge funds that lost about $40 million of the city’s money because the two were duped by Bernie could spell a precedent for other municipalities and entities in the fallout as a result of the Ponzi scheme heard around the world; Fairfield is suing the funds for undertaking "no due diligence investigation of Madoff."

There is some good news. At least some for J.P. Morgan insiders and shareholders (and especially a few traders): while most of Wall Street was getting their arses handed to them last year, a few derivatives traders at J.P. Morgan were, it seems, killing it, to the tune of more than $5 billion in profits.

Filed Under: Finance

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