Restrictions on Pay Are Making Bankers … Richer

Jacqui Kenyon

wall stDuring the recession, a harsh light shined on the exorbitant salaries of Wall Streeters. Their paychecks seemed all the more outrageous when compared with the economic plight of the rest of America.

As part of the sweeping bank regulations that resulted from the financial crisis, a new set of compensation rules emerged in 2009. Firms like JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley were ordered to pay their executives less in cash and more in deferred stock. The rationale was that deferred stock vests over time, so bankers can’t sell it right away for a big profit. Additionally, the argument went, the move would tie compensation more to the performance of the firm.

But it appears the regulations are backfiring, Quartz reports, and Wall St. bigwigs are as rich as ever. Goldman Sachs employees, for instance, have about $600 million to their names in earnings, thanks to the company’s surging stock prices. (And that doesn’t include their bonuses, by the way.) The highest ranking execs, like the president and the C.E.O., could cash in their stock for about $10 million each.

You might think that it’s only fair to reward these bankers for their companies’ performance—wasn’t that the point, after all? But the article’s author, Mark DeCambre, offers a counterpoint. He points out that Wall St.’s stock prices are a combination of many factors, including help from government bailout money and monetary policy from the Fed meant to keep the stock market afloat.

Do you think that the money is hard-earned … or are you mad that the Street is still lining its employees’ pockets with big paydays?

  • WhitneyF

    Stock-based comp (whether in the form of deferred stock or stock options) is still the most traditional way to align employees’ motivation with the needs of investors. When the employees own the company (or a portion of it) of course they should benefit from just as a normal shareholder would. It’s true that there are a variety of forces that influence stock prices other than the actions and performance of management, but to argue that stock-based comp is ineffective or inappropriate because of the effects of larger economic forces is erroneous. If anything, it should serve to heighten management’s awareness of how the economic trends and government regulation and intervention impacts their company so that they can find a way to harness these issues to the advantage of their shareholders (which is exactly what banks have done).