Opening Bell: 12.18.08

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Schapiro To Take Over For Cox Under Obama (WSJ)
It looks like the embattled Cox will be retiring from the SEC after this year: Obama has elected to replace him with Mary Schapiro, head of FINRA since 2006. There has to be a question about vetting, as in: did or didn't the administration actually look into Mary's past. Mary's the one that appointed Mark Madoff to the National Adjudicatory Council in 2001, which we have to assume is an oversight on the part of Obama's camp if for no other reason than it's so bloody insane it defies all bounds of logic. And then there's the whispers that Mary didn't really do much at FINRA except make things pretty by protecting the old people from annuity salesmen - and I'm not saying that's not important, I'm just proposing maybe it shouldn't be the chief qualifier for the next chair of the SEC. On the flip side, at NASD she worked through the perilous bid/ask "spreads" BS back in the mid 90's, and "oversaw" the merger between the NYSE regulatory unit and NASD.
Goldman Bonuses Off 80% (FT)
"Partners at Goldman Sachs are set to see their bonuses fall by up to 80 per cent this year and the cash component of their year-end packages capped at $400,000"
We posted first year analyst numbers yesterday, and there were some comments suggesting first year associate numbers would come in at approx $100,000 - but this is really the first we've seen of a hard cap on the upper echelon. We don't know what the rest of the comp package looks like yet, but it's the same 5 year vest (and remember they're moving from 55 year retirement to 60) that was mentioned earlier.
MS is also mentioned in the article as announcing yesterday that it's bonus pool is seeing a 50% cut to reflect its "sharp fall in annual profits", but until we see the actual numbers side by side there's no knowing if GS has been usurped.
If you have numbers, send them to us at tips (AT) dealbreaker (DOT) com.
Bonus Structure Criticized, Again (NYT)
A rather long piece criticizing the bonus structure of the banks, and taking great pain to explore the paychecks of everyone they've ever heard of. One wonders if this isn't a public appeal piece on behalf of our great Attorney General, but I digress.
I think there needs to be a concerted effort to move banks away from the use of the word Bonus, because in the rest of America it's meant to be a term used for when someone does something particularly outstanding. Here though, it's a part of the compensation plan - which should (does) have a completely different meaning - and the mass majority of people are just flat out missing that.
Of course I still hold that the mass majority of people are raging morons, but still.
Blagojevich Will Not Fill Senate Vacancy (FT)
I can't believe that was even a headline.
US Tax Code To The Rescue (Bloomberg)
Just when the masses needed it most, the Government showed up on a white horse (no, not cocaine people, calm the fuck down):
"Capital-gains taxes paid by investors may be refundable for 2005 through 2007, lawyers said. In addition, they said investors probably can convince the Internal Revenue Service they are victims of theft, which would let them deduct losses from their income taxes dating back to 2006. Any unused theft losses could be used to reduce tax liabilities for the next 20 years."
BNP Paribas/Fortis Merger Killed (CNBC)
The French/Dutch love child plan was killed after a court decision was handed down that effectively enforced a suspension. Apparently Fortis had a cold, and wanted her first time to be "special" - wait what?


OPEC Makes Cut, Oil Forgets To Respond (Reuters)
You have to know these guys are going to be pissed after their "I'm for Super Serious" meeting on massive cuts in production to protect price points.
Biggest Madoff loser, Fairfield Greenwich, eyes legal move on PwC (FT)
Yup.
--William Richards

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