Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

In case you're still wondering about America -- and what went wrong...

...check out this story in tomorrow's New York Times, about the obscene bonuses that Wall Street paid out for profits that weren't really there: For Dow Kim, 2006 was a very good year. While his salary at Merrill Lynch was $350,000, his total compensation was 100 times that — $35 million. The difference between the two amounts was his bonus, a rich reward for the robust earnings made by the traders he oversaw in Merrill’s mortgage business. Mr. Kim’s colleagues, not only at his level, but far down the ranks, also pocketed large paychecks. In all, Merrill handed out $5 billion to $6 billion in bonuses that year. A 20-something analyst with a base salary of $130,000 collected a bonus of $250,000. And a 30-something trader with a $180,000 salary got $5 million. But those earnings from mortgage-backed securities -- that have since collapsed -- were a mirage: Critics say bonuses never should have been so big in the first place, because they were based on ephemeral earnings. These people contend that Wall Street’s pay structure, in which bonuses are based on short-term profits, encouraged employees to act like gamblers at a casino — and let them collect their winnings while the roulette wheel was still spinning. When I think of an empire collapsing, I always think of some toga-wearing Roman dude on the couch getting hand-fed grapes. I guess this madness is our own version of that.

In case you're still wondering about America -- and what went wrong...



...check out this story in tomorrow's New York Times, about the obscene bonuses that Wall Street paid out for profits that weren't really there:

 For Dow Kim, 2006 was a very good year. While his salary at Merrill Lynch was $350,000, his total compensation was 100 times that — $35 million.

The difference between the two amounts was his bonus, a rich reward for the robust earnings made by the traders he oversaw in Merrill’s mortgage business.

Mr. Kim’s colleagues, not only at his level, but far down the ranks, also pocketed large paychecks. In all, Merrill handed out $5 billion to $6 billion in bonuses that year. A 20-something analyst with a base salary of $130,000 collected a bonus of $250,000. And a 30-something trader with a $180,000 salary got $5 million.

But those earnings from mortgage-backed securities -- that have since collapsed -- were a mirage:

Critics say bonuses never should have been so big in the first place, because they were based on ephemeral earnings. These people contend that Wall Street’s pay structure, in which bonuses are based on short-term profits, encouraged employees to act like gamblers at a casino — and let them collect their winnings while the roulette wheel was still spinning.

When I think of an empire collapsing, I always think of some toga-wearing Roman dude on the couch getting hand-fed grapes. I guess this madness is our own version of that.
About this blog

Will Bunch
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected