Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does it get any sadder than this?

Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these have surely got to include “this holiday season, many Wall Streeters are flying commercial.”

Talk about a lump of coal.

No, worse.

At least a lump of coal has some intrinsic value, like you can burn it to create warmth.  Or use it to make one eye on a snowman.  Or peg it at someone.

Flying commercial.

Does it get any sadder than this?

I think not.

Anyway, I learned about this almost unbearable ending to an already gloomified year in the Wall Street Journal, which – correctly, I’d say – put the Wall Street plight story out there when there’s still time to make an end of year contribution to one of those Santa outfits that takes care of the needy.

What else are our Wall Street guys  skimping on?

Well, those who are still managing to eke out enough of living to fly chartered are foregoing:

…catered in-flight meals, which can cost $1,000 or more for four people.

Hey, I know that $1K sounds like a lot of moola for four in-flight meals – at least when I think about the in-flight meals I’ve been served over the years -  but remember: we’re not just talking the food and the food prep here, but the service and delivery.

Others are “jet pooling” with – get this – complete strangers to keep costs down.

Misery loves company, especially when company can help defray private jet costs. And just as there are no atheists in foxholes, I’m guessing that, even without sharesies on a $1K lunch, there are no strangers after lift-off on a private jet heading from Teterboro, NJ to St. Barts. Just saying.

You think I’m kidding about all this, but we’re currently experiencing the “largest decline in bonuses since the onset of the financial crisis.”  What’s that? Two, maybe three whole years with having to survive on a paltry salary and a measly, barely-buy-a-raincoat bonus.

This is also a major example of trickle down economics at its insidious worst:

December is usually a time when bankers crowd the showrooms and aisles shopping for their next big bonus toys. But jewelers, sports-car dealers and yacht brokers say bankers this Christmas are hard to find.

Heard on The Street:  Bonuses down between 10 to 25% over last year.  Maybe even 50%.


The drop follows last year's much-criticized surge in banker pay and highlights growing uncertainty on Wall Street ahead of regulatory scrutiny and weak financial markets.

But that surge was last year.  And it’s already been spent. Or saved. Or stuffed in a mattress.

Naughty or nice, apparently, matters not.

One Citi banker said colleagues who have been coming out of compensation meetings in the past two weeks "look like they've been hit by a truck."

But not by the Lamborghini they were hoping for.

And, for some, there’ll be less cash in the bonus wallet, as:

Regulators and shareholders have pushed banks to link pay to long-term performance rather than short-term trading gains. As a result, some bankers, accustomed to getting as much as 50% of their bonus in cash, may get only 20% this year, with the rest usually paid out in deferred stock, according to Wall Street compensation consultants.

I call ‘Foul!’

Changing the rules mid-career?

Man, these guys ought to be grandfathered in.

Don’t people get how much good short-term trading does?

It’s not all unremittingly terrible news.  Goldman is down, but their bonus scheme is likely to work out to over $367,000 per employee. (I’d like to see the spread on that one.)

$367,000 may sound hefty, but chartering a decent-sized boat in the Caribbean between Christmas and New Year can run you $250K to $1 million. And that’s before food, bev, and fuel are larded on added in.

An extra $36 7,000 just doesn’t stretch all that far, especially if you’re talking family of four.

Other areas hard hit by the dwindled bonuses on Wall Street include summer homes.  Many are downsizing their cottage rentals and purchases from 12,000 square feet, to a more modest 6,000 to 8,000 square feet.

Can’t we do something for these folks?  Like give them a permanent tax cut or something?

I know people talk on and on about the deserving poor, but how about a break for the deserving rich?

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