Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Executive Compensation: Updates

Brief on my own forty-two cents this go-'round, but heavy on the inbox house-cleaning ...


Juniper Networks settled a shareholder derivative suit for $169 million. This is the third largest settlement for such suits (United Health at $900 million, Comverse at $225 million, followed by fourt-place Broadcom at $160 million). Speaking of Broadcom, while the SEC dropped its litigation against several Broadcom execs and general counsel, legal analysts have chastised the company for capitulating to shareholders due to "litigation fatigue."

Business Bankruptcy

Recently U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey approved one of several compensation proposals submitted by the Tribune Company (think Chicago Tribune and LATimes). Objections were filed to the plan, but the Judge found 11% of the company's 2009 cash flow as apportioned to 720 managers in bonuses "incentiv[izing]". A little tongue-in-check there, but it amounts to $45.6 million in manager bonuses.

Bank of America (BofA)

Let's start with the uncontroversial: formerly of Merrill Lynch, John Thain finally found work. As a fellow job seeker, *yay* John.

The Cuomo complaint is making the rounds: allegations that BofA and outside counsel Wachtell had in fact agreed to disclose 4Q08 Merrill losses, but the decision was reversed later by Mayopoulos alone; Wachtell "marginialized." Allegations also include Mayopoulos being fed inaccurate information by BofA executives regarding the losses (and therefore affecting his judgment as regards disclosure).

And so it's no suprirse then, that S.D.N.Y Judge Rakoff has not only refused to approve the newly proposed $150 million settlement, but gave SEC counsel a hard time over why NYAG Cuomo's complaint is different, and has recently asked for ALL discovery materials regarding BofA's former general counsel Mayopoulos' dismissal.

Oh, and if any of this behaviour suggests that a substantial bonus payment to various BofA employees would be a PR nightmare, you apparently would be wrong: $4.4 billion goes out to Ibanking employees for their 2009 performance (that's an average bonus of $400,000 per person). Though in fairness: those who are receiving larger bonuses will receive stocks vesting over a several year period.

Compensation Czar

So AIG paid-out contractually agreed to bonuses this year, and the whole of D.C. is trying to determine how to stop it.

Pay Practices

But AIG has heard enough of the populist outcry, and so re-jiggered its pay practices. Analysts and commentators still suggest the jiggering will not satisfy regulators.
Barclay's also tweaked their pay packages and structures. The President and Chief Executive waived their 2009 bonuses; other executives' compensation was deferred and other bonuses were paid in stock.

Mr. Blankfein at Goldman, however, took a $9 million all stock bonus for 2009. The bonus is considered conservative, as Blankfein took a $67.9 million bonus in 2007. No "magic formula" apparently.


The Administration's banking plan has Wall St. upset, mostly because cash cow proprietary trading is on the chopping block. Paul Volcker has been quite clear: either have access to federal backing or continue the proprietary trading.

It is little wonder lobbying efforts are up. Is "up" a dimunitive term here? FWIW: Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson doesn't like the plan.

The Administration's bank plan also contains disincentives for banks that grow too large to fail. On this theme: JPMorgan got a little bit bigger recently, and then one of its Athens' offices was bombed.
Recall rampant media discussion about the Webb-Boxer Taxpayer Fairness Act - the "Jobs Bill?" A banker tax may be included among the amended provisions. Proposed as a windfall bonus tax, the first $400,000 is exempt.

Separately, Senator Dodd's bank reform legislation has an impasse to overcome ...

Photo credit: Oliviadei.

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