Jefferies

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. Read more »

Rumors began to circulate late last year that Jefferies could be acquired by a large bank, something that would surely result in layoffs. “When banks buy other banks, people lose their jobs,” said Richard Lipstein, managing director at executive search firm Gilbert Tweed Associates. “If you look at a sale of an investment bank, this is as close to perfect as it gets.” Leucadia, often compared to Berkshire Hathaway for its diverse set of holdings, already owns a 28% stake in Jefferies, meaning it intimately knows the firm and its culture, and believes in its direction, Lipstein said…As for layoffs, “there likely won’t be any,” said one headhunter who works with Jefferies and requested anonymity. “Now they’ll have a stronger balance sheet, and the ability to pick up slack where other firms have left off,” said the recruiter. [eF, earlier]

Leucadia National Corp., which EDGAR tells me is in the “Lumber & Wood Products (No Furniture)” business but which also processes beef, drills for oil, owns a Mississipi casino and develops biopharmaceuticals, is getting out of one business:

Leucadia National Corporation (NYSE: LUK) and Jefferies Group, Inc. (NYSE: JEF) today announced that the Boards of Directors of both companies have approved a definitive merger agreement under which Jefferies’ shareholders (other than Leucadia, which currently owns approximately 28.6% of the Jefferies outstanding shares) will receive 0.81 of a share of Leucadia common stock for each share of Jefferies common stock they hold. …

Leucadia will continue to operate in its current form, except that the merger agreement contemplates that Leucadia’s Crimson Wine Group, with a book value of $197 million, will be spun out in a distribution that is intended to be tax-free to current Leucadia shareholders prior to the completion of the merger.

I assumed that the spinoff was driven by some sort of regulatory impediment (alcoholic or financial), though on the analyst call for the merger Jefferies said that Crimson was just “less synergistic” to the combined business than … I guess, than the casino or the slaughterhouse? Still, I like it: you can combine a casino and a wine business, or a casino and an investment bank, but not a wine business and an investment bank. Do you think the investment bankers are prudes, or the winemakers?

What are the investment bankers up to anyway? It makes a lot of sense for a low-investment-grade wee investment bank who recently overcame a near-death experience re: Eurozone sovereign bonds to sell itself to a highly rated financial conglomerate – a “baby Berkshire Hathaway” no less – with a big balance sheet that can provide cheap funding for its bond-market misadventures. But this isn’t that: Leucadia’s rating is 2-3 notches lower than Jefferies’, and its balance sheet is smaller, though Moody’s is talking about upgrading Leucadia on the deal.

Here is Moody’s affirming Jefferies’ Baa3 rating: Read more »

Jefferies set aside $870 million in the first six months of its fiscal year, enough to pay its 3,809 employees an average of $228,407. Goldman Sachs set aside $225,789 for each of its 32,300 workers. Average pay for the 26,553 people in JPMorgan’s investment bank was $184,989, or at least 18 percent less than Jefferies’s and Goldman Sachs’s reported figures. It was 10 percent less than both in fiscal 2011…Goldman Sachs, run by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, 57, includes consultants and temporary staff when reporting headcount. Jefferies, which has been luring talent from larger rivals to expand in the wake of 2008’s credit crisis, tallies only full-time workers in its disclosures. Jefferies’s reported headcount would expand by 10 percent to 15 percent if the firm included temporary workers, said a person with direct knowledge of the figures who requested anonymity because the information isn’t public. While that would place the firm’s average pay per employee below Goldman Sachs’s, it still exceeds JPMorgan’s and Morgan Stanley’s.  [Bloomberg]

  • 25 Jul 2012 at 12:45 PM

How Can Wall Street Feel Alive Again?

As some of you may recall, there was a time not too long ago when you could work on Wall Street and be compensated in a way that made you feel special. Appreciated. Loved. Eight, nine, ten-figures of love. Now, obviously, not so much. But that is not what’s eating the industry’s most fragile spirits of late. They are fine taking pay cuts. They could care less about the money. What they’re not fine with is having the rush, the intensity, the adrenaline-pumping fear that comes with, say, putting on a trade in which maybe the firm will make $1 billion or maybe it’ll lose $10 billion, WHO KNOWS, IT’S ALL RELATIVE, I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS, THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT SO EXCITING taken away from them. Take Sean George. He used to spend his days destroying company property and now, thanks to financial regulation, has had to get his kicks elsewhere.

Sean George kneeled in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan. He wasn’t praying. A gash below his right brow bled into his eye and down his nose before a knee to his groin sent him to the floor. George, 39, head of credit-derivatives trading at Jefferies, was making his Muay Thai debut at the church June 22 in a sport that allows kicking, elbowing and kneeing. His eye was swelling shut by the time he lost in a split decision. It was the happiest he’s been all year, he said.

“Right now at work I’m making less risk decisions — and I enjoy taking risks,” George, who headed investment-grade credit-default-swap trading at Deutsche Bank AG before he joined Jefferies last year, said in an interview. “If you’re in it for the game and the fight, the game’s over and the fight’s over.” Risk is what drew George and the colleagues he respects to Wall Street, he said. He could bring in millions of dollars in a single month at his peak, and trading was so intense that during one credit-default-swap deal he smashed a phone against his desk, sending part of it three rows away, “one of the records for the best break,” he said.

Ethan Garber’s lost that tingly feeling in his plums. Read more »

What is the best thing about these Jefferies bonuses? For me it’s this:

For 2011, we offered our employees the option to receive the stock portion of their year-end compensation in the form of either shares or cash, with the cash amount being equal to 75% of the grant-date amount of the stock that an employee would otherwise receive. The election resulted in a decrease to share-based compensation expense of approximately $23.3 million, as certain employees elected to receive reduced cash awards lieu of the full grant-date amount of the shares. This offset increased cash compensation expense by approximately $17.5 million. The net effect of this election on total compensation and benefits expense was a reduction of approximately $5.8 million. While these cash awards were fully expensed in 2011, they will legally vest in future periods.

When I first skimmed the headline I thought, okay, paying a 25% discount for liquidity makes sense. I, anyway, would be a lot wealthier had I gotten … really almost any percentage of my stock-based comp in cash rather than vaporizing most of it and leaving a small stub subject to a nondisparagement agreement when I left (I love you guys!), but that is neither here nor there. Because that’s not actually what the Jeffererers got. The people taking the “cash” got no more liquidity or vestedness or, um, cash, than the people taking the shares. They got … at a first approximation, they got an illiquid JEF bond. If they’re around, and Jefferies is around, and the cash is around, in three years or whenever this stuff vests, then they get a fixed amount of money. If not, not.

So the only thing that the Jeffers got for giving up 25% of their stock-based comp was … avoiding the risk that Jefferies stock would decline by more than 25%. Here’s a silly coincidence: Read more »

Tough calls. Read more »