Bank Pay Disconnected From Performance

Here is a little bit more professional review of bank compensation versus performance than we saw from Andrew Cuomo last week.

This comes via BusinessWeek citing a study by Presidio Pay Advisors, a San Francisco compensation consulting firm. They looked at 115 publicly traded banks, their profits or lack thereof and executive compensation. The results won’t surprise you.

The study finds that about a third of the CEOs who held office from 2006 through the end of last year received increases in 2008 total cash compensation (base salary plus annual bonus); the increases ranged from 1% to 108% over 2006 levels, the study says. About 43% of CFOs got increases of up to 420% in the same period.

It’s not as if pay gets docked when performance hits the skids. Rather, by all rights, bonuses and other incentive pay is supposed to reflect the CEO’s effectiveness and should “decrease more for terrible performance than it should for merely mediocre performance relative to a defined group of peers.” Makes sense, right?

About 80 CEOs from the 115 banks in question held the CEO position at the same bank for all three years. These 80 banks held a total of $7.5 trillion in assets as of December 31, 2008, and received a total of $134.6 billion in taxpayer investments from TARP.

Well clearly, that group turned out terrible results: aggregate profits of $119.3 billion in 2006 turned into an aggregate total loss of $19.3 billion in 2008. Yet the researchers found “no meaningful, statistically significant relationship between changes in pay and changes in performance from 2006 to 2008 among the 80 CEOs studied.”

I told you there weren’t any surprises. Rather lamely, the BW week article suggests that the bank executives possibly deserved their pay for helping their institutions navigate the rough waters of the last year or so. Unfortunately, that metaphor crashes on the rocky shore when you consider that most of them were kept from foundering by TARP money not the heroic efforts of the captains.

Oh well, if after all of this shareholders sit still for this type of behaviour then they probably deserve what they get.

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