Bonuses paid out to Wall Street executives declined in 2010, according to New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Cash bonuses to securities industry employees totaled about $20.8 billion in 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery, an 8 percent decline from the prior year, and about 33 percent lower than what was paid in 2007, just before the onset of the global financial meltdown.
DiNapoli’s office said the decline in the cash bonus pool “reflects changes adopted by the industry in response to regulatory reforms, such as a shift toward deferred compensation and higher base salaries.”
Moreover, Wall Street profits totaled $27.6 billion in 2010, which would be second only to 2009 (when the street racked up record profits of after the $61.4 billion, which was fueled by federal bailouts, low interest rates, and proprietary trading.)
Cash bonuses are down, but that's not an indicator of a weakness on Wall Street, DiNapoli said.
Wall Street is changing its compensation practices in response to regulatory reforms adopted in the aftermath of the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Past practices rewarded short-term gains at the expense of long-term profitability. The industry's greater emphasis on deferred compensation will hold down tax collections this year, but the State and the City will benefit in future years when taxes are paid on this deferred compensation. A more stable and less volatile securities industry is in the best interests of Wall Street, the City and the State.
DiNapoli's offices figures do not include bonuses paid by New York City-based firms to employees located outside of the City; nor do they include stock options that have not been realized or other forms of deferred compensation.
The average cash bonus declined by 9 percent to $128,530 in 2010. The average bonus declined slightly faster than the total bonus pool because the pool was shared among slightly more workers than in 2009, the office explained.
However, DiNapoli noted that while the size of the cash bonus pool has declined, overall compensation has grown – by about 6 percent.
Also, DiNapoli reported that the securities industry in New York City added 3,600 jobs between August 2010 and December 2010. In contrast, the sector had lost 30,700 jobs during the recession, a decline of 16 percent, or 3.5 times the rate of total job loss in New York City.