Weil on Finance: Banker Bonus Euphemisms
It’s Cupid’s big day, and I’m in the mood for links. Here’s what I’ve been reading this morning.
Shock! Bankers are really good at playing word games to figure out ways around bonus limits.
Nice story here by Jenny Anderson and Peter Eavis at Dealbook. The European Union not long ago capped banker bonuses at one to two times salary. But nobody thought that would really work, did they? So now instead of getting a big bonus, bankers are getting things like “role-based pay,” “allowances” or “reviewable salary.” And here’s my favorite part: “Antony P. Jenkins, Barclays’ chief executive, said this week that role-based pay was `not performance-related, but an adjustment to fixed pay.’” They really do have some brilliant mathematical minds there at Barclays. I mean, it takes creativity to figure out that you can achieve the same objective by adjusting a fixed amount as you can by adding a bonus to it.
Two days ago I wrote about some unusual things going on at Daily Journal Corp., the small California newspaper publisher where the board is headed by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Vice Chairman Charles Munger. Namely, the company is two quarters behind on its financial filings; its accounting firm, Ernst & Young LLP, hasn’t finished auditing its books for the year ended Sept. 30. Here’s the latest: Yesterday the Nasdaq Stock Market sent Daily Journal a delisting notice, saying the company isn’t in compliance with Nasdaq’s listing rules because of the filing delays. Not a huge deal. But it’s still very unbecoming of a company that counts Munger as its chairman. Daily Journal said it will get caught up on its filings “as soon as possible after Ernst & Young LLP completes the audits and its review of the first quarter results.” The first link takes you to the Nasdaq notice. The second is to a related article at CFO.com.
Anonymous articles about stocks can be fun to read, because people will say all sorts of things they wouldn’t say in polite company if they had to be held accountable for them. And as you might imagine, they can also lead to lots of trouble. John Kimelman of Barron’s writes that “from time to time, Seeking Alpha, which publishes at least 200 investment articles each trading day by an army of freelancers, is admittedly duped by some of its writers with an agenda to manipulate a stock. The site is then forced to pull questionable stories after readers or members of the press expose a problem.” This week The Street reported that Seeking Alpha removed two articles that touted Galena Biopharma Inc. after determining the same person wrote them using two different pen names. And here’s a good reason why you can believe this Barron’s article: Because the person who wrote it, John Kimelman, used his real name in the byline.
The Securities and Exchange Commission hasn’t been doing so great at winning trials lately.
Just ask Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who won in court last year after the SEC accused him of insider trading. So SEC Chairman Mary Jo White, who is a darn good lawyer herself, has been restructuring the agency’s trial unit, according to this article by Jean Eaglesham of the Wall Street Journal. The agency has won only 55 percent of its trials since October, compared with its usual 75 percent win rate over the past three years.
If you want a friend, get a dog.
So here’s an article called “10 Reasons Your Dog Makes the Best Valentine’s Date,” in case you are into that kind of thing and don’t have a real date for tonight. Reason #1: “Dogs don’t talk.” Happy Valentine’s Day!
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)
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