The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a $700 billion taxpayer bailout, public outcry over excessive pay and the demise of three of the biggest securities firms won't deter Wall Street from offering year-end rewards to employees on top of their huge salaries.
Five straight quarters of losses and a 70 percent slide in its stock this year haven't stopped Merrill Lynch & Co. from allocating about $6.7 billion to pay bonuses.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, both still on track for profitable years, have set aside about $13 billion for bonuses. Even some employees at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which declared the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history last month, will get the same bonus they received a year ago.
Even without bonuses, Wall Street's traders and bankers typically receive salaries that range from $80,000 to $600,000 a year. That compares with the mean annual wage for the average U.S. employee of about $40,690 and a mean for CEOs of $151,370, according to a May 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
“I'm just flabbergasted that the financial community has failed to show any sense of leadership on this issue and doesn't seem to understand how angry people are at them,'' said Nell Minow, editor of Corporate Library, a Portland, Maine-based corporate-governance research firm. ``They are just a bonus away from having the villagers come after them with torches.''