Profits are smaller in many places on Wall Street this year, and so are cash bonuses--not merely because profits have fallen from 2009's record levels, but also because they're under considerable regulatory pressure to pay out more of their bonuses in the form of deferred stock.
I'm somewhat skeptical that the bonuses are going to have the promised benefit of discouraging risk-taking. To me, the problem of Wall Street over the last ten years was not excessive risk taking, but rather, that both bankers and regulators convinced themselves that they weren't taking excessive risk
Nonetheless, I'm in the "couldn't hurt" camp on this one; if you're going to get a bailout when things go south, then it strikes me as reasonable and proper that we should be able to impose compensation restrictions aimed at reducing the probability that you will need a bailout. It's hard on the luxury retailers, of course, as the Wall Street Journal takes pains to spell out
. And a lot of the people who will be hurt are boat workers and store clerks, not plutocrats. My sympathy with them is a little stronger. Nonetheless, I draw the line at making public policy for the benefit of employees on private yachts.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down