Wall Street Plans $38 Billion of Bonuses as Shareholders Lose

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Shareholders in the securities industry are having their worst year since 2002, losing $74 billion of their equity. That won’t prevent Wall Street from paying record bonuses, totaling almost $38 billion.

That money, split among about 186,000 workers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., equates to an average of $201,500 per person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The five biggest U.S. securities firms paid $36 billion to employees last year.

The bigger bonus pool derives from a record $9 billion of fees for arranging acquisitions and $5 billion for underwriting initial public offerings and sales of junk bonds, the most lucrative securities, Bloomberg data show. Bankers’ record fees help explain why 2007 will prove to be the industry’s second- most profitable after the subprime mortgage market collapse led to losses at Merrill and Bear Stearns. The last time bonuses declined was 2002 when the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 23 percent, and Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. went bankrupt.

Goldman’s record earnings and gains at Morgan Stanley and Lehman mean all the New York-based firms will be forced to pay more in a year when all but Goldman lost more than 20 percent of their market value, said Charles Geisst, finance professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. [MORE]