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Wall Street's Winter Wonderland

Times are tough!  No, I’m not talking about the plummeting dollar or the sub-prime mortgage crisis or even the winless Miami Dolphins.  As our national economy staggers like an intern at the office Christmas party, wise investors are glad they hedged their bets with America’s brightest financial minds.

And if you were smart enough to gamble your hard-earned and rapidly-shrinking middle class wages in the stock of the five biggest investment banks in the U.S. -- home of the aforementioned best and brightest -- you shared in the loss of 74 billion dollars of equity – that’s “billions with a B” as those nutty Bloomberg radio guys like to say!

In any other business, that might call for some belt-tightening, course-correcting, or even artery-severing.  But not on Wall Street, where eight decades ago they at least had the good sense to jump from a great height upon hearing bad news.  Instead, the securities industries are collectively handing out record bonuses totaling 38 billion dollars.  (That, too, is with a “B.”)  Happy New Year!

But to those of us who have to work for twenty years before earning a piddling million – with an “M” -- (the median national annual income of $48k would still leave you short), let’s put those numbers in proper perspective:  When you divvy up a third of a trillion dollars among 186,000 workers, as they will at the five biggest firms, that’s a paltry $204,300 per person -- which even an average Shmo like you can earn over five or ten years.

So in a year that saw record losses in the banking and brokerage industries (Merrill Lynch lost $8 billion in the 3rd quarter alone), where did the “B”-for-“bonus” money come from, and what gave these investment deities the “B”-for-“balls” to shower their employees with riches while company stockholders got “F”’d?  Let’s skip over the rhetorical part of that two-part question and answer the first:  FEES.  According to the nice folks at Bloomberg who keep track of these things, this Olympic-size bonus pool was generated largely from a record $9 billion in “fees” for arranging acquisitions, and $5 billion for underwriting IPOs and sales of junk bonds (which, despite their name, are highly lucrative.  It would be like a “crap sandwich” actually tasting good).

Instead of granting ginormous bonuses to already-rich workers who, on the face of things, don’t appear to have earned them, shouldn’t that fund be used to offset shareholder losses?  Why not “share” those record fees with “shareholders,” one might ask, only to be met by derisive laughter from men in suits with big bags of money bearing dollar signs?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Sorry.

Conventional wisdom says the top investment banks can’t afford NOT to shower gold on their best people – the most brilliant investment minds in the industry – or they’d just take their golden shower elsewhere.  One might argue that losing the brilliant minds who cost them billions by investing in wobbly-as-a-Weeble sub-prime mortgage bonds might actually be good for the company, especially if they wind up at the competition.

But at least it’s nice to see the little guy – the lowly financial worker-bee, scurrying about the hive, regurgitating great gobs of gooey money for the Queen – enjoy his sloppy seconds... while the "Queen" of the biggest investment hive, Goldman-Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, takes home $69 million for 2007, up from 54 million last year.

Anyone want to see the math for how long it would take to earn that at $48k a year?

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Disclaimer: This website is satirical in nature and naturally satirical.  Although many of the facts, figures, statistical information, and events both current and historical contained herein are true and accurate, "Eat The Poor" also contains elements of parody, including exaggeration and ridicule, regarding events, public figures, corporations, government institutions, and others we find deserving of unwanted attention.  No harm is intended to figures both public and private and/or institutions or corporate entities mentioned herein.
The use of the phrase "herein" herein is hereby acknowledged to be unnecessary and excessive.

A Modest Proposal for a film by Kurt Engfehr and Ken Pisani.
2006 Ken Pisani and Kurt Engfehr.  All rights reserved.
All "Blogging Poorly" posts  Ken Pisani.