Banks get around Bonus Rules = less money to take back after risky bets go bad

February 13, 2014. Banks in London Devise Way Around Europe’s Bonus Rules. Jenny Anderson. New York Times.

Since the 2008 crisis, regulators around the world have tried to rein in bonuses, worried that big payouts encourage excessive risk-taking by bankers and traders.

These new packages undermine what bank regulators worldwide have sought to do for 6 years: force banks to stagger the payment of bonuses over much longer periods. Such deferrals enable the money to be taken back if bets go bad. The new structures pay more upfront and leave less available to take back.

But bank giants in London such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Barclays are flouting the restrictions by structuring new pay packages that try to satisfy both their emboldened regulators and their very expensive employees.

So goodbye, big bonus.  Hello, role-based pay.  Other banks have called their new payments “allowances.” At least one labeled it “reviewable salary.

“These are bonuses in disguise,” said Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of the Green Party in the European Parliament.

“This may leave us not just no better off, but worse off from the management of systemic risk,” said Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee and a Conservative member of Parliament. The commission on banking standards that he led concluded, among other issues, that compensation needed to include longer deferrals and more take-backs to discourage excessive risk-taking.

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