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The Wall Street gurus who presided over the subprime mortgage crisis currently shredding global sharemarkets have awarded themselves bonuses totalling $US33.2 billion ($38 billion).
In a concession to the crisis - which has forced America's largest banks to write off billions in bad investments and raise billions more to shore up their capital reserves - the bonuses were down nearly 5 per cent on the previous year.
The average bonus of $US180,420 ($206,088) in 2007 dipped 4.7 per cent from the previous year, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement today.
The securities industry rewarded $US33.2 billion in bonuses to its New York City employees, two per cent less than the record $US33.9 billion ($38.7 billion) in 2006, he said.
The numbers are taken from the seven largest financial firms headquartered in New York City, which are tracked by the comptroller's office. The firms are Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers.
All except Goldman Sachs, which largely avoided the risky loans, have been battered by the financial crisis.
While the seven firms earned $US39 billion ($45 billion) in profits during the first half of 2007, a 41 per cent gain over the prior year, they lost $US28 billion ($32 billion) in the third and fourth financial quarters, DiNapoli said.
Total pretax profits for the seven firms totalled $US11 billion ($12.6 billion) in 2007, less than one-fifth of the $US60 billion ($68.5 billion) record set in 2006, the comptroller said.
Employee compensation, which includes bonuses, consumed 61 per cent of the firms' revenues in 2007, up from 45 per cent 2006. DiNapoli said this reflected the firms' efforts to keep high-performing employees.
Those working in mergers and acquisitions and in equities should be rewarded with bigger bonuses but employees in the fixed-income units that handle mortgages will be "dramatically lower", the comptroller said.
Compensation experts say those high-performing units will basically subsidise whatever bonuses are left to give to flagging parts of the banks' business. Because of the dismal performance of the Wall Street investment houses, Morgan Stanley chief executive John Mack and Bear Stearns chairman James Cayne gave up their huge annual bonuses.
Last year, they were paid about $US40 million ($45.7 million) in compensation.