European banks doled out huge chunks of bonuses to their employees in 2013 even as the European Union passed a new law that requires banks to limit such compensation and disclose more information about how they reward their employees, according to a report based on recently released data.
In April 2013, the EU parliament passed a law that imposed a cap on bankers’ bonuses, which required banks to limit bonuses to 100 percent of the salary, with an option to increase it to 200 percent with shareholders' approval. Under the new rules, banks now have to disclose more detailed information on how much they pay their employees who are classified by some banks as “material risk takers” and “code staff.” And, according to a New York Times report, the latest data reveal the names of banks that paid huge bonuses in 2013 and thus would be required to significantly alter their compensation norms in 2014 to conform to the EU bonus cap.
According to the data, Goldman Sachs paid an average of $4.7 million to 121 people in 2013, the highest of all. JPMorgan Chase paid an average of $2.4 million to 209 people, while Barclays paid about $2.2 million to each of its bankers who qualified for the bonus. Citigroup shelled out an average of $2.1 million for each of its 182 risk takers.
In 2013, Goldman’s variable pay was 5.5 times that of its salaries, while JPMorgan’s variable pay was 4.1 times higher than its fixed pay. With 1.6 times higher bonuses, Citigroup was considerably closer to the cap of 100 percent of the salary, the Times reported, adding that details on the 2014 pay packages are yet to be released.
European regulators have been trying to crack down on bonuses paid to bankers by implementing laws amid a growing consensus that short-term bonuses fuel excessive risk-taking behavior, affecting Europe's financial stability.
Although some banks have tried to find a workaround by introducing different terms, such as “allowances” or “role-based pay,” and classifying them as fixed pay, the European Banking Authority said in October that these practices broke EU bonus rules because they were found to be neither fixed nor permanent in “most cases,” Bloomberg reported.
Britain had tried to block the EU bonus cap rules, but eventually had to withdraw a lawsuit in November when a legal adviser to the EU's top court made it clear that the country was unlikely to win.