Monday, October 27, 2008

Shouldn't Bonuses be tied to performance?

Really? I find this very hard to believe. Yes they will get bonuses, but if the bonus is tied at all to performance, you have to expect they will be well down from last year.

Moreover, even for political reasons, if I were on the board of any of these firms I would be arguing for lower pay since high bonuses in the midst of a market collapse (which at least in part caused by bankers) will surely bring on even more ire and regulation from Washington.

But still, this from Bloomberg: Exclusive:
"Five straight quarters of losses and a 70 percent slide in its stock this year haven't stopped Merrill Lynch & Co. from allocating about $6.7 billion to pay bonuses.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, both still on track for profitable years, have set aside about $13 billion for bonuses after three quarters, down 28 percent from a year ago....

The bonus figures are based on estimates that about 60 percent of the compensation and benefits expenses reported by the companies will be paid in year-end bonuses, as occurred in past years. Average bonuses aren't an indication of how much any employee will receive, since payments range widely from assistants to top traders....

....Goldman Sachs plans to cut about 3,200 people, or 10 percent of its employees, a person familiar with the matter said last week. That's a reversal from Sept. 16, when Chief Financial Officer David Viniar said he expected the number of employees to grow this year. Viniar told analysts in March that compensation costs make up two-thirds of the firm's expenses and that year-end bonuses are roughly two-thirds of compensation.
While I understand living in NYC and putting up with mega hours demands a premium (my reservation price would be in the millions), but given that bonuses are supposed to be paid for good performance, I have to agree with the following from Nell Minow:
``I'm just flabbergasted that the financial community has failed to show any sense of leadership on this issue "

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Investment company performance may in fact be more tied to random market conditions rather than actual skill. "Fooled by Randomness" discusses this in some detail.

Since a majority of active portfolio managers underperform their benchmarks (primarily due to costs and not outright stupidity) none of them should be getting bonuses, it only inflates the competitive disadvantage.

I would recommend American investors place about 95% of their funds in passive low cost indexed stock equity and bond market indexed open end funds and allocate just 5% to active portfolios. That will teach "them".