Mon, Jan 23, 2012 - Page 5 News List

US banks curbing bonuses for CEOs

ONE PERCENT:Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman’s stocks awards for last year dropped from US$10.2 million in 2010 to a modest US$5.1 million this year


JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank, posted a record profit for last year. However, that didn’t translate into a bigger bonus for CEO Jamie Dimon. Morgan Stanley’s latest quarterly results topped expectations as the bank trimmed costs and cleaned up problems dating from the financial crisis, but CEO James Gorman saw the value of his stock awards for the year fall by half.

Across their ranks, Wall Street banks are curbing bonus pay for last year’s performance, which was marked by big drops in stock prices and still-hefty costs for mortgage-related problems. In the last three months of the year, fear about the European debt crisis made the stock and bond markets volatile, and clients of all the major banks shied away from mergers and acquisitions and public offerings of stock. That sharply reduced investment banking and underwriting fees. The banks also faced a surge in populist anger, as the Occupy Wall Street movement went national.

Financial stocks were some of the worst performing last year. While the S&P 500 Index finished the year flat, Morgan Stanley shares plunged 44 percent, JPMorgan dropped nearly 22 percent and Goldman Sachs Group Inc tanked 46 percent.

Compensation followed the downward trend. In a closely watched and politically charged gauge, JPMorgan Chase & Co revealed earlier this month that it set aside 36 percent less than the year before to pay its investment bankers. Morgan Stanley shed 700 workers last year and capped the amount that workers can get in their bonuses immediately, deferring anything over US$125,000. Rival Goldman eliminated 7 percent of its employees and cut pay by 21 percent last year.

It appears the banks’ CEOs are not immune. On Friday, Morgan Stanley’s regulatory filing showed that the value of Gorman’s stock award for the year dropped to US$5.1 million, from US$10.2 million in 2010.

Gorman, who became CEO two years ago, has been slimming down the bank, selling off units like a mortgage servicing division and an asset management business. He has been emphasizing divisions like wealth management, which provide smaller returns than some investment banking operations, but also carry much less risk because they’re based on fees rather than markets. Unlike JPMorgan and some other big banks, Morgan Stanley doesn’t have a large consumer deposit base to rely on when its investment bank stumbles.

JPMorgan’s Dimon received restricted stock worth US$12.6 million and stock appreciation rights reportedly valued at roughly US$5 million for last year, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. That compares with about US$17.1 million in stock and stock appreciation rights that he was granted for 2010.

For the full year, JPMorgan posted a record profit of US$19 billion, up from US$17.4 billion in 2010, but the bank struggled amid the choppy financial markets, which hurt investment banking fees in the fourth quarter. The bank also disclosed that it spent US$3.2 billion last year to fight lawsuits, almost all of them over poorly written mortgages. That is down from US$5.7 billion in 2010, but Dimon acknowledged there is still a “huge drag” on earnings five years after the bubble burst.

Complete compensation details, including the value of the executives’ cash compensation, perks and benefits for last year weren’t disclosed. None of the banks have filed annual proxy statements, which include those financial details.

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