Sunday, February 01, 2009

it’s theirs and they’re not apologizing

NYTimes | Getting between a broker and his bonus is like getting between a schnauzer and his lunch bowl. He may not bite you, but you are going to smell his breath.

“People come here because they want to work hard and get paid a lot for working hard,” one investment banker said Friday as he wended his way, lunch bag in hand, through the World Financial Center. “I think there’s a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.”

That certainly was the case this week when Main Street learned that, despite the craters of a down economy, Wall Street bonuses were more than $18 billion last year — roughly what they were in the fatty, solvent days of 2004. The media hollered, the president scolded, and ordinary people checked their wallets. But downtown, in the caverns of finance, the moneymakers shrugged and took it on the chin.

It is a complicated thing, they said, to apportion compensation in a bear market. First of all, profits do not stop; they often ebb. Second of all, losses move unequally, so the law of the jungle should still apply: you eat what you can kill.