Razzle Dazzle From Goldman

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Goldman Sachs plans to restructure its bonus payouts this year:

With a resurgent Goldman set to award billions of dollars in bonuses — a trove that could rival the record payouts of the bubble years — the bank said that its 30 most-senior executives would be paid in the form of a special stock, rather than in cash…..This year, [CEO Lloyd Blankfein] and other top executives will receive bonuses in the form of what Goldman called “shares at risk,” or stock that cannot be sold for five years and can be retracted if the executive does something reckless or risky that hurts the firm.

Can I just take this opportunity to say how underwhelmed I am with this?  Let me count the ways.  (1) The amount of the bonuses hasn’t changed a whit, only their form. (2) The whole point of changing a compensation plan is to change incentives.  Announcing a new bonus plan at the end of the year does nothing to change incentives unless Blankfein invents a time machine too. (3) It’s only for the top 30 executives.  What about the traders? (4) It’s apparently only for this year. See #2.  (5) The official definition of reckless (“materially improper risk analysis”) is so stringent that there’s really no chance it will ever apply to anyone.

So what’s the real point of this little kabuki play?  Dennis Berman translates here.

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