Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Here We Go Again. This Time It's Citigroup
The last time I blogged about bonuses it was in defense of those being paid to the employees and managers of American International Group, AIG. Now Citigroup, which is a holding company as well, is now going to ask Big Daddy if they can pay out bonuses to keep some key personnel. Big Daddy owns a 36% stake in Citigroup. So he can decide if Citigroup can pay any additional money out to key people.
Get ready for some hand wrangling and teeth gnashing from congress and the white house on this. The problem is that Citigroup needs to keep its key people in its energy-trading unit, Phibro, to continue to go forward and emerge from their current fiscal problems. The employees in this unit are threatening to leave because of the paycaps that were instituted under the bailout rules. Phibro has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to the bank.
The CEO of Citi, Vikram Pandit, should have sounded the alarm early on and not sat idly by while he was forced to agree to the government terms of operations to accept bailout funding. He was not alone in this. All of the chief executives of the banks should have been more vocal in their demands. But I guess beggars can't be choosers! All the banks knew that they would have a brain drain of their key people if they could not pay them market rates and bonuses. Now Pandit wants to provide stock-based bonuses for these people to keep them from jumping ship. This stock will vest over three years. Well, I say good luck to that. With your stock price hovering around $3 per share and losing over 95% of its value since 2007 I would rather you pay me with Mega Millions Lottery game tickets.
Citigroup has been operating like germs in a petri dish. Under the microscope and constant observation. These bonuses are needed to raise the morale of a group that are being demoralized by working for the government. When you work for the government you are told that you will toil all day and all night for pittance. You will like it and you will not ask for more because you have a job, be thankful. But for the employees that must work under these conditions if you see the light, go into it. Leave on your terms. Do not bank on the idea that Citigroup can change the mind of the Treasury Department or the President.
The government should help but Obama is a man of polling approval. The vast populace of the country often does not understand bonuses and how they are achieved or paid. They have wealth envy and think that these guys make enough already. The polls will say that Americans are opposed to paying any bonuses and Obama will force Geithner to tell Citigroup, No go!
Bonuses are always a good thing when paid for the right reasons. Have key levers attached and measurements to show that they were achieved and the company does what it is suppose to do and that is pay them when they are achieved. Our banks are becoming Nationalized and the brain drain will continue. The best and the brightest will go work somewhere else but not for these U.S. Banks.
Those are my Words! Please post Yours!