The Epicurean Dealmaker: November
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So where do we go from here? First, I think we must realize that putting arbitrary pay caps on investment bankers and traders will be counterproductive. I don't think the Treasury does either, which is why the plan it proposed last week governing pay for senior executives at financial institutions suckling at the taxpayer's teat imposes no explicit limitations on total compensation for CEOs or anyone else.
Believe it or not, my friends, half a million in cash, before taxes, is a pretty skimpy wage to support a CEO-type lifestyle in New York City. Nevertheless, most of the people who will be looking for these jobs are rich already, and I am sure their personal fleet of accountants, compensation experts, and tax advisors will be able to find them enough of the folding to keep the wife and mistress in Prada.
As long as they repay the Treasury, and repair their institutions, I see no reason why we shouldn't wish them Godspeed.
The Epicurean Dealmaker: The Rules
Furthermore, deferring the bulk of every banker's pay in like fashion makes eminent sense, too. But there are two reasons to disregard their complaints. First, one of the first things the walking wounded banks subject to these rules must do is re-equitize their balance sheets, and what better captive source of interest-free loans common equity is there than your employees?
Second, while bankers like these on the agency side of the business contribute little risk to the overall organization, they definitely draw a substantial portion of their legitimacy, stature, and revenue-generating capabilities from their firm's franchise. Locking them up with long-term deferred comp seems a modest price to pay for renting Goldman Sachs' or JPMorgan's good name, in my humble opinion, especially since the bid away is practically nonexistent.
Prop traders, of course, should be locked up until Kingdom come, or at least until the cows come home. The ideal solution, actually, would be to set up internal hedge fund accounting at each bank. Track prop traders on their individual results, and pay them with long-vesting "shares" in their own trading book, just like real hedge fund managers.
That'd align those little buggers, alright. Unfortunately, this solution is probably administratively unworkable, even if it is theoretically very neat.
As a distant second best, pay them in restricted shares of the parent bank that vest on a schedule which matches as closely as possible the long-term risk profile of their trading activities. Effectively structured, such a program would render bonus "clawbacks"—and all such similar proposals being floated in the court of public opinion right now—effectively moot. Given their position at the top of the food chain, and their responsibility for using proprietary trading to dig their banks out of the holes they have put themselves in, senior executive management pay should be structured in the same way.
Of course, pushing the entire industry to deferred compensation will work much better if bankers can take their stock with them when they move. Let a banker jump ship to a competitor, if he or she wants to. Let them keep their currently unvested stock, with all restrictions and required holding periods intact, and the incentive to jump off a sinking platform onto a new one will be replaced by a clear self-interest in helping right the ship.
Competitors who want to poach a rainmaker from another bank won't have to buy out his lifetime earnings from the previous employer, and the pressure to make big guarantees will moderate at the margin, too. The additional fact that no-one is hiring, and any bankers still employed will feel lucky just to have a seat, won't hurt either.
Finally, if the Treasury really wants to align incentives for banks under the TARP umbrella, they should stipulate that each bank's Chief Risk Officer should be compensated no less than the CEO for the duration of the restrictions.
Some meaningful portion of the CRO's pay should be tied to the maintenance of low volatility and low net losses at the bank. If there is one truism we can take to the bank, it is that well-designed and well-managed compensation systems are never simple.
There are unintended consequences from every decision on pay, and comp systems must be constantly tweaked and adjusted to achieve their primary objective of motivating employees to effect the company's goals.
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To stab colleagues and subordinates in the back. No, this massively inefficient workflow arises organically out of the nature of the work we do. The former, in particular, tend to be less sophisticated when it comes to matters financial, and hence are ripe targets for terrifying with images of slick, rapacious professional rapscallions just waiting for a chance to spring upon Aunt May and ravish her repeatedly over a cracker barrel.
Or all of the above. A caring owner, however — and there are plenty of them — usually does not want to leave his long-time associates sadly singing the old country song: Old Warren knows his audience, and his audience in this section is family-owned businesses or professional managers of corporate subsidiaries who aspire to get off the big company hamster wheel.
Representation Accordingly, he despises investment bankers and employs his considerable folksy charm to scare potential business sellers away from using us for the plain and simple reason that we make his job harder and more expensive.
He points out that the success of the business purchasing part of this entity can be neatly reduced to the skill with which the principal buys and sells said businesses, and not hands on management and supervision thereof, which said demiurge studiously avoids. Berkshire offers a third choice to the business owner who wishes to sell: Nor do I begrudge a beloved financial celebrity and multibillionaire a little fun in kicking the mangy village cur everybody hates, but I do hope to persuade at least a few of you that Mr.
Sometimes we will venture out into the broader landscape of society, culture, and politics to poke and peer at their curious denizens and bring back amusing reports. Unlike the other big class of professional company buyers, however—private equity companies, who tolerate investment bankers because they need us to help finance and eventually sell their purchases—Mr.
Perhaps there is a contingent among the benighted paper pushers of investment bank human resources departments who believe this too, but I have attacked this superficial notion thoroughly and, in my opinion, effectively in the past.
But, when sellers do, Berkshire does not have a lot of competition. It will often take several hours, if not all day, for the senior banker to review the changes and give them back for why, see infraso the junior banker will fill her morning with odds and ends of other projects or deals she is working on plus the inevitable conference calls with clients and internal meetings on live and prospective deals. Later, the business will be resold, often to another leveraged buyer.
Its days of dealing with banks and Wall Street analysts are also forever ended. March 19, at Government funding has been essential to much of the university science that entrepreneurs have exploited. Rollerboards are for pussies.
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Checking luggage is for young families on vacation and old ladies. Neck pillows are for moral degenerates. When in doubt, see Rule 5. Rule 9 — It never gets easier, you just make more money. Investment banking is hard. Last year was last year, asshole: Furthermore, the higher you rise in the pyramid, the closer you come to the clients, managers, and shareholders and their unrelenting, unreasonable, unjustifiable demands.
Sur la Plaque, fucktards.
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The pressure, the money, and the prestige will tempt you to cut corners. To stab colleagues and subordinates in the back. To gutlessly steamroll brighteyed young acolytes in the name of shareholder returns or your own personal compensation. The life of an investment banker is nasty, brutish, and short. But if you can manage to avoid succumbing to the myriad base temptations to screw people over the profession offers you, you will earn a reputation as a But since when did you care what the general public thinks?
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