• 27 Nov 2013 at 12:50 PM

Bonus Watch 2015: The Netherlands

The Netherlands wants to introduce legislation that will cap bankers’ bonuses at 20% of their annual salary, a move that could lead to Dutch bankers facing one of the most stringent pay curbs in Europe amid public anger about compensation. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Tuesday that the bonus cap should help curtail excessive risk-taking and avoid future taxpayer bailouts. Banks will also be forced to limit severance pay and claw back bonuses when employees have violated professional standards or are responsible for hefty losses, he said in a letter sent to Dutch parliament. The proposal goes a step further than in many other European countries, where policy makers are scrambling to address ongoing public criticism over generous corporate pay packages, especially for bankers. Mr. Dijsselbloem said the EU rules “don’t go far enough” and that he wants to introduce legislation to establish the “strictest bonus policy in Europe.” The new rules are planned to come into effect Jan. 1 2015, and still require parliamentary approval. They will apply to all employees in the Dutch financial sector, including those working for foreign branches of Netherlands-based banks and insurers. [WSJ]

U.S. regulators proposed new rules Wednesday that would require public companies to disclose the pay gap between chief executives and rank-and-file employees, a controversial requirement that thrusts executive compensation into the spotlight. A divided Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-to-2 to float a less onerous measure than what the SEC was ordered to adopt in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, giving companies flexibility in how they calculate the ratio to cut back on its expected costs. [WSJ]

“Straddle over a Japanese-style toilet every day.” Read more »

  • 11 Jan 2012 at 2:07 PM

Vikram Pandit Wants To Crowdsource Bank Risk Management

A thing you might want is for investors to be able to understand the financial situation of the companies they invest in. Traditionally, that is a thing that many people want, anyway.* Much of our system of corporate finance is dedicated to that and it mostly works okay.

A place where it breaks down a bit is in financial institutions. Because big financial institutions more or less take shareholder money, leverage it 10 or 30 times, and invest it all in a large and ever-changing mix of mark-to-market assets, some of which they mark themselves. Then they tell you things like “our assets have a current expected value of around X, with a daily variance of around Y” and since they’re sporting they also give you some sort of rough breakdown of what classes those assets fall into and stuff. This does not give you precise confidence about what those assets are worth today or what they’ll be worth in a week. And you can’t really find out much granular detail about the assets, because disclosing them all would be a competitive problem and/or just take too long / make your eyes glaze over. If you’re lucky maybe the banks disclose in some useful form actionable information about whatever you’re currently worried about, but you’re probably worried about the wrong things anyway.

So you do the best you can, and rely on external sources, like ratings agencies, who might know more than you, maybe, sometimes, or like Warren Buffett. Or you rely on government oversight to keep your financial institutions more or less solvent. But regulators, too, need some sort of heuristic for figuring out what assets are risky and how risky they are. After all, a big part of their job is regulating those risks, by doing things like setting capital requirements. It turns out that this is hard. So they sometimes outsource that job to ratings agencies. That doesn’t always work. Then they get all “we’re going to stop outsourcing risk regulation to ratings agencies.” That doesn’t always work either.

Vikram Pandit has his own idea and it’s pretty neat: Read more »

Ratings Agencies Incentivized By Incentives, Part 2

A thing about credit ratings is that issuers pay for ratings, and the issuers who pay more get better ratings. This is a problem that many people want to solve either by the obvious approach of having someone else pay for ratings or by the fancier approach of having issuers pay for ratings but not letting agencies compete directly for that money.

Today a paper by three accounting professors reminds us that the first approach has been tried, and not just by Egan-Jones. In the early 1970s, while Moody’s was charging issuers for ratings, S&P was still charging investors, so there was a period where you could directly compare the ratings of two big established agencies, one of whom had incentives to give actionable advice to investors, the other of whom had incentives to give good ratings to issuers. You will not be surprised at what happened: Read more »

  • 16 Feb 2010 at 1:28 PM

Volcker Loves Volcker Rule

Picture 105.pngGot to give it up for Volcker, who, despite growing uproar against his proposed eponymous rule, is soldiering on, saying it’s the best thing that ever happened since well, ever. Volcker is however getting increasingly frustrated and said he is “very disturbed” by the level of dysfunction in Capitol Hill and the Senate, and basically, WTF is going on with these people who can’t get things done?
In a CNN interview yesterday, Volcker said that regulators screw up big time in the years leading to the crisis, as a) they weren’t “on top” of anything and b) they didn’t understand what was going on anyway, relying on “somebody down in the bowels had it under control.” Also financial innovation sucks. The only innovation that has added value recently, is the ATM machine.

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  • 03 Feb 2010 at 5:57 PM

Barney Frank Not Too Excited About Volcker Proposal

paulvolckersmoking.gifThe Volcker Rule is not gaining popularity, with many people distancing themselves from the proposal- with Senator Dodd most recently saying the thing’s a bad idea. A source close to the matter tells us that now, chances for it to be enacted are getting very slim and that even Barney Frank is sort of, “not enthused” with it either. According to the source, Frank’s beef is that he doesn’t understand why the White House is making such a push, as regulators would have the authority to implement the proposed changes, and he’s questioning the necessity for Congress to revisit it. “It was s political move in the sense that the more you band against big banks, the more you help yourself politically. But they miscalculated on that one, ’cause it wont be beneficial for them in the end.”

sheilabair.jpgSheBair is oddly pulling a Geithner, flip flopping around the prop trading ban proposal. Just like her nemesis, she’s adopting a “yeah, it’s a great idea but I don’t know” attitude toward Obama’s proposal.
At Wednesday’s AIG hearing, Congressman McHenry asked Timmy G. how he could back the Volcker Rule while having said that he was opposing a Glass-Steagall return, screaming at him: “How do you reconcile those two beliefs? They are direct opposites”

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