You would think that European regulators have a lot to worry about with their banks but they’ve got time for a surprising distraction: finalizing a plan to cap bankers’ bonuses at 1x base compensation*:
Bankers’ bonuses across the European Union are set to be limited by law, with many bank lobbyists admitting in private that they have lost the fight against a European Parliament initiative to limit the size of bonuses relative to salary.
Some banks still hope to increase the proposed ratio from 1:1 to 2:1 or beyond, while others are trying to limit the restriction to upfront cash bonuses, excluding deferred payouts. But many bankers now accept the principle of a ratio as inevitable.
“It’s dawning on many banks that this is game over,” said one senior lobbyist. “Many are now resigned to the 1:1 ratio.”
Assuming – as is currently the case – that the caps will be only on the ratio, not the amount, this is a somewhat weird move. Banks in Europe, as you may have heard, are somewhat undercapitalized. They also continue to need to employ bankers, and the going rate for senior bankers in Europe seems to be around 2.5x their current base salaries,** which are already up due to previous noise (and action) about bonus caps. A cap like this should push them up further, increasing banks’ fixed costs at exactly the moment they can’t afford to pay them.
But of course the regulators know that and view it as an acceptable trade-off for the benefit of the bonus cap, which mainly to nudge banks’ culture away from levered risk-taking and toward … I’m gonna say bureaucracy? Read more »