Bull Shyster

Merrill Lynch paid billions of dollars of bonuses to its employees, three days before completing its life-saving sale to Bank of America, reports the Financial Times.

The money was paid as Merrill’s losses were mounting, forcing Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis last month to seek additional government support for the deal. Merrill’s compensation committee agreed to pay bonuses on December 29, at least one month earlier than usual, the paper said.

Bank of America said Merrill had a $21.5 billion operating loss in the fourth quarter. Despite the massive losses, Merrill set aside $15 billion for 2008 compensation, 6% lower than a year earlier. About $3 billion to $4 billion of that compensation were annual bonuses.

[Financial Week]

John Thain spent $1.22 million of Merrill’s money to refurbish his office. Thain’s largest expense was the hiring of celebrity designer Michael Smith for $800,000. This is the same guy who is currently redesigning the White House for the Obama family for only $100,000. Thain had Merrill pay that designer $700,000 more for the redesign of only his office. Again, are you kidding me?

Persian Area Rug =$87,000
Egyptian Silk Curtains =$28,000
Mink Guest Chairs =$87,000
Roman Shade Fabric =$11,000
Mahogany Pedestal Table =$25,000
19th Century Credenza =$68,000
Hand-Stitched Polynesian Sofa =$28,000
George IV Desk =$18,000
Wall Sconces =$2,700
6 Antique Chairs =$37,000
Private Dining Room Mirror =$5,000
Dining Room Chandelier =$13,000
Commode On Legs =$35,000
Regency Chairs =$24,000
40 yards of Fabric For Wall Panels =$5,000
Parchment Waste Can =$1,400
Additional designer Expenses =$30,000

Finally, in addition to the above ridiculous numbers, documents show Merrill paid $230,000 for Thain’s personal driver for one year’s work, which included the driver’s $85,000 salary and bonus of $18,000, and another $128,000 in over-time pay.

[Street Insider]

Your tax dollars hard at work making CEO’s comfy.

It is one thing when the best-paid people seem to be the smartest and the most accomplished. Those who make much less may not like it, but the differential seems understandable. It is another thing when those people are shown to have committed huge blunders that would have driven their companies out of business, and them into the unemployment line, but for government bailouts.

So it is now with Wall Street. In both Europe and the United States, antipathy toward the bailout is rising amid complaints that the money has not helped the economy by encouraging loans, but has kept the bankers in Champagne and caviar.

Are financial workers overpaid? And if so, will it continue? The answers, according to a new study by two economists, are yes, they are overpaid, and no, it will not last.

“Wages in finance were excessively high around 1930 and from the mid 1990s until 2006,” wrote Thomas Philippon of New York University and Ariell Reshef of the University of Virginia, in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper released this week, “Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry, 1909-2006.”


Is it pitch-fork and torch time yet?

[Hat tip 1] [Hat tip 2]

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