Four years after their spectacular demise, Lehman Brothers is still causing problems for Wall Street. The latest bombshell hit on Friday when a compensation report required by the bankruptcy court disclosed that Lehman paid out almost $700 million in comp to 50 previously undisclosed traders in 2007. The same 50 were paid a total of $1.6 billion in comp in the three years prior to Lehman's bankruptcy.
Naturally, everyone is up in arms about the outsized payments to crew members of a ship that was clearly (at least in hindsight) foundering.
"It never ceases to amaze me," said Phil Angelides, chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. "You clearly have corporate leadership that's out of control, reckless without accountability and, in the course of driving the firm over the cliff, they're taking as much money as they can out of it."
The traders in question were paid anywhere from $8.2 million to $51.3 million in 2007, and 42 of the 50 made over $10 million that year. One of them even earned more than Dick Fuld himself. No one ever would have known about it if it weren't for the bankruptcy, because banks are only required to disclose the compensation of the top officers.
"They hide behind the guidelines that say the top five officers must disclose how much money they make," said William Cohan, who has written several books about Wall Street abuses. "You miss all these trader types and private-equity guys and derivatives salesmen who are making much more, and who you never know about."
Obviously this many guys earning over $10 million in a year offends the delicate sensibilities of many lawmakers. Whether the Lehman disclosure will be the catalyst for a new law requiring enhanced reporting on compensation I have no idea.
I think if the the folks who are most up in arms about this saw how these guys made their money, they might sing a different tune, though. Most traders can point to their P&L to justify their compensation. I suppose an argument could be made that their P&L was artificially inflated by bogus products, but the numbers don't lie in the end.
In any case, it'll be interesting to see if this story gets any legs this week, or if it just blends into the cacophony of Wall Street complaints in general.
You gotta admit, $10 million in a year is pretty baller. And how about the guy who made more than The Gorilla himself? I'll bet Fuld broke a half dozen pens before signing that comp sheet.
What say you WSO? Is any man worth $10 million a year? Would you have the same answer if you knew the company was about to go tits up?