Wall Street Bankers' Average Bonus Falls by Most Since 2011

Why Wall Street Bonuses Fell 9% in 2015
  • Payout Drops 9% to $146,200 as NYSE members' profits decline
  • Industry added 4,500 jobs compared with 2,400 in 2014

Wall Street’s average bonus fell 9 percent to $146,200 in 2015, the biggest drop since 2011, according to estimates by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

QuickTake Banker Bonuses

The bonus pool was $25 billion, down 6 percent from a year earlier, even as the industry added 4,500 jobs in New York City, DiNapoli said Monday in a statement. The payouts shrank as profits from the broker-dealer operations of New York Stock Exchange member firms declined $1.7 billion to $14.3 billion.

Profit at the six largest U.S. banks rose to $93 billion in 2015, more than double the 2009 level and a 36 percent increase from a year earlier. Still, the industry has been slow to recover from the 2008 global financial crisis. A years-long slump in fixed-income trading revenue and rising litigation costs have forced many banks to cut jobs and reduce pay. The 24-company KBW Bank Index declined 10 percent this year through Friday.

“Wall Street bonuses and profits fell in 2015, reflecting a challenging year in the financial markets,” DiNapoli said in the statement. “While the cost of legal settlements appears to be easing, ongoing weaknesses in the global economy and market volatility may dampen profits in 2016.”

Job Cuts

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. plans to eliminate more than 5 percent of traders and salespeople in its fixed-income business, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg last week. Bank of America Corp., which cut more than 10,000 jobs last year, will dismiss about 150 trading and investment-banking employees this week as part of the firm’s periodic cull of low performers, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Smaller bonuses mean New York City will be forced to contend with lower tax revenue this year and next, Kathryn Wylde, chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City, said in an e-mailed statement.

Politicians calling for stricter regulations for Wall Street should recognize that the industry is responsible for about 40 percent of the local economy and directly contributes almost 20 percent of tax revenue.

“New York cannot continue to thrive if Wall Street withers,” Wylde said in the statement.

Investment banks are also still dealing with the consequences of misconduct in the years leading up to the financial crisis. A group of 15 global investment banks will probably see higher legal expenses over the next two years after already setting aside a total of $219 billion in costs between 2008 and 2014, according to a survey by Moody’s Investors Service.

Goldman Settlement

Wells Fargo & Co. agreed last month to pay $1.2 billion to resolve claims related to its Federal Housing Administration mortgage practices. Goldman Sachs in January agreed to settle a U.S. probe into its handling of mortgage-backed securities for about $5.1 billion, cutting fourth-quarter profit by roughly $1.5 billion and closing out a year of record legal and litigation costs.

The average salary in the securities industry in New York City rose 14 percent to a record $404,800 in 2014, the latest year data were available. The industry accounts for 22 percent of all private sector wages paid in New York City and roughly one in nine jobs are directly or indirectly associated with it, according to the statement from DiNapoli’s office.

The state got more pessimistic about prospects for 2016, saying the statewide bonus pool will probably drop 2.5 percent in the current fiscal year, down from a previous estimate for a 0.7 percent increase.

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