Back in the day, as in pre-crisis, bonus season on Wall Street was a happy time. Sure, you still had your miserable pricks who would bitch and moan about the fact that they hadn’t gotten as much as the guy who sat next to them, even they the guy who sat next to them was a “non-contributing zero who wouldn’t recognize alpha if it bit him in the ass,” but prior to to fall 2008, anyone who was unhappy about his or her bonus was a) quibbling over receiving a huge sum of money instead of an imperial fuck-ton of money and b) in a position to actually make good on a threat to jump ship, since firms were hiring. Now, with a few exceptions, bonus season makes people feel sad. Angry. Powerless. Frustrated. Confused. Like the world is out to get them. Not only has the total amount of one’s bonus come down, but many companies have decreased the cash portion, while increasing the deferral period on stock to, in some cases, almost half a decade. Then you have Jefferies. Last year it let employees decide between an all stock bonus or an all cash bonus with 25% lopped off. This year the investment bank-cum–butcher shop isn’t even forcing anyone to choose, instead dumping a bag of cash on people’s desk and reminding everyone who loves ’em.
The decision to pay immediate cash is a departure from some competitors’ compensation structures. Morgan Stanley capped 2011 cash bonuses at $125,000 and deferred an average of 75 percent of employees’ payouts, up from 40 percent two years earlier. Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG awarded a portion of 2011 bonuses for more than 6,000 bankers in bonds backed by derivatives that will pay out over several years. “It is no secret that virtually every one of our bank holding company competitors is forcing onto their employees extremely high levels of non-cash compensation with long vesting periods or compensation in the form of cash to be received well into the future,” Chief Executive Officer Richard Handler and executive committee Chairman Brian Friedman wrote. “You can’t spend non-cash compensation or unpaid cash to buy a home, purchase groceries, invest in your life or help out friends and family.”
Of course, this gesture of love and appreciation has got to be a two-way street, which is why in the same memo Dick and Brian noted that they would be extending gardening leave periods, should anyone be getting any ideas about seeking employment elsewhere, which they know you would never do, since there’s not a bank on the Street that’ll keep ya warm at night like they do.