Friday, December 19, 2008

Six Billion in Bonuses for Seven Billion in Profits

If you hadn't already realized that the whole Wall Street mess was all about enriching the brokers and "analysts" that put Ameica into this mess, let me point you to Kos and the Times:

The five largest firms on the street handed out $120 billion in bonuses over a five year period -- more than the GDP of 150 nations.

Still, we are talking 2006. Those were the fat years, right?

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 Merrill’s record earnings in 2006 — $7.5 billion — turned out to be a mirage. The company has since lost three times that amount, largely because the mortgage investments that supposedly had powered some of those profits plunged in value.

Unlike the earnings, however, the bonuses have not been reversed.

First, how astounding is it that an investment firm handed out $6 billion in bonuses on $7.5 billion in profits? It certainly shows where their priorities lay. And of course the "profit" was generated by enormously overvaluing derivatives, swaps, and bundled securities that were worth more in their fevered imaginations that in the real world. In other words, the reputable companies on Wall Street inflated their values ridiculously, paid themselves insane levels of bonuses based on the numbers they generated, left taxpayers holding the bag, and cried all the way to their multimillion dollar second or third homes.

The difference between what Bernard Madoff did and what the rest of Wall Street has done is little more than a question of semantics. Heck, at least most of Madoff's squandered billions went to paying off investors in his schemes.

Funny that the Republicans didn't stage a protest over the investment firms handing out enough bonuses that they could have covered most of the mortgages in foreclosure. But then, it's not like these guys were in a union and hauling down those fat $23 an hour paychecks.

And, more importantly, it's not like the Republicans' golf buddies, frat-mates, families and college chums were in those unions. While everybody's getting deservedly angry over the Rick Warren anti-gay kind of Republican, remember that there are only two kinds of Republican, and this is the other kind of Republican. They're also bastards, but for a completely different reason.

(Also remember that these guys and their aspirational suck-ups are the ones bleating about bootstraps and the market. Always remember that.)

Edit: Title fixed.

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