Bonuses Are Back on Wall Street

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Daniel Gross of Newsweek and BusinessWeek's Diane Brady discuss the startling profits at Goldman Sachs, the return of big bonuses at AIG, and whether the business of banking has really changed at all.


Diane Brady and Daniel Gross

Comments [50]

markBrown from

*********** I TOLD YOU SO***********

Hey Brian/Producers:

I told you all over 18 months ago (remember my 10 step program to save the country from the [coming] depression?)

that ONE of the things we needed was a MINIMUM MILLIONAIRE's TAX.
Where everyone (INCLUDING COMPANIES) with income over 1M, pays a MINIMUM tax starting of 5% of ALL of their income ..

Look here for a brief description:

and for an (what I think is the PERFECT solution to this problem) look HERE
for a proposal for this Minimum Millionaire's tax:

*** Heh... so much for being a "quack", and being banned from the show... ***

My only problem is that I think 3-5 years into the FUTURE, as opposed to 3-5 weeks, or months.

....*** *AND it IS a depression, and we WILL have 25% unemployment before it is over...

And then again I will laugh...***

Jul. 17 2009 01:17 PM

please do another segment on eva's question 1.

btw doesn't make sense why gross is not taking the contrarian position but believes that the market has bottomed and is rising. Based on some "proprietary" analysis from his buddies in Ohio or wherever? Nah...when the market is projected to go up, YOU GOTTA ASK WHY. What's changed? Personally I think 2009 is a great year for investors -- to buy AND ALSO sell. Unless I see some logic somewhere that indicates otherwise (and yes, another stimulus package would count).

Jul. 16 2009 10:20 AM

Here's Janet Tavakoli, former Goldman employee, on "What Goldman Owes The Taxpayer"

She rightly brings up the issue of the $50 billion - not mere $10 billion - that Goldman received from the government.

Jul. 15 2009 05:39 PM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

See, I knew we weren't THAT far apart. (after all, we're WNYC listeners :-)

I do write to Reps. I'm a complete pain in the arse.

Nice day, heading out. (and trying to ignore the tax bill that was just pushed through my mail slot ;-)


Jul. 15 2009 01:04 PM
hjs from 11211

those are 2 good ones. let's write to our congress persons

Jul. 15 2009 12:57 PM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

I would not grant not for profit status to many many organizations who actually do not serve a greater need or underserved population. (Perfect example: rowing clubs in affluent communities who merely provide tax free opportunity for people to buy equipment/pursue hobby and provide tax payer subsidized recreation opportunities for middle/upper class individuals.) The standard for not for profit is WAY too low and the litmus test for "greater good" is almost non existent. This represents a real loss of income to states and diverts donations away from REAL charitable orgs.

Eliminate SSI for children who are classified with special needs (ADD for example) but have no real increased financial need. This creates a drain on social security and a dis-incentive for parents (who become financially dependent on the money) to mainstream their children. I'm not talking about seriously disabled children. You would be surprised by the level of benefits available (cash, not just services) to "classified" children. I have NO problem with services, it benefits the child and society, but a check each month? It's abused more than you can imagine.

Etc., etc., etc. Work in social services for a while, you'd be shocked at all the legit needs that are not being met AND all the exploitation schemes that exist. Tragic.

Yep, I'm a lefty social worker type but I also believe in the value of work, self sufficiency, incentives, etc.

Answer: two kids in college

Jul. 15 2009 12:43 PM
hjs from 11211

"I value the cultural/economic/racial diversity and I accept the responsibility of being part of a greater society."
that's the bottom line. you get what u pay for!

which sevices would u like to see cut.

ps what are tuitions are u paying?

Jul. 15 2009 12:19 PM
Lori from Montclair, NJ


Come talk to me when you are paying nearly 65% of your income in taxes, SS, etc. and nothing you pay such as property taxes, tuitions, health care costs, etc. are tax deductible (AMT).

I also pay exorbitant property taxes local/County and I basically utilize the once a week trash pick up and emergency services if needed. The balance supports public education, cultural institutions, local welfare for low income residents in my community, struggling cities like Newark, etc. I have NO problem with that construct. I chose to live here because I value the cultural/economic/racial diversity and I accept the responsibility of being part of a greater society.

However, if we need to sell our home, or my husband needs to lay off his workers, or we reduce our charitable donations because we are overburdened by our taxes and can't meet our personal obligations (like educating our children), who wins? The burden which we now support just shifts back to society.

Jul. 15 2009 12:03 PM
hjs from 11211

getting real! paying taxes are part of living in a modern nation. u know where taxes are low guatemala. would u like to live there?

Jul. 15 2009 11:46 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

1)individuals who own businesses pay themselves a salary and or bonus and also pay personal taxes based on estimated earnings (lest they pay penalties) and on orders, even if they haven't yet been PAID yet (like when they get IOUs from the State of California)

2) small business owners do not have off shore accounts or elaborate loop holes nor do they huge capital reserves while they wait for the economy to rebound, nor do they get bail outs, etc.

This isn't about growing a business but SURVIVING for the sake of your family and EMPLOYEES.

Get real!

Jul. 15 2009 11:34 AM
hjs from 11211

1st businesses don't pay taxes
2nd tax is paid on profit not on income. your business can be grown fine without paying taxes.

Jul. 15 2009 11:04 AM
hjs from 11211

no one wants to pay taxes but we all want to live in a modern nation and get services from the government.

Jul. 15 2009 10:55 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

Tim, you just described a small business owner/entrepreneur. How do they continue to grow when their personal income taxes and SSI, etc., exceeds 60% of their earnings? We're killing a class that we say we are trying to create.

They're already out there, the ones who studied, paid off student loans, started from scratch, worked decades to create business that employ others, etc. Now, we are making it impossible for them to survive and punishing them for their success.

Jul. 15 2009 10:54 AM
Tim Kunz from Baldwin, NY

Eliminate corportate and business income tax and remove all loopholes from the personal income tax. PRESTO--no more deficit and all we will need are honest politicians.

Is this a time to hope? Or act?

Jul. 15 2009 10:50 AM
Tim Kunz from Baldwin, NY

We all want to keep the money we earn, however, we need a government to print, defend, and distribute that currency. We need an adequately educated population to produce the wealth and create the market that we will redistribute wealth and product that IS THE ECONOMY!

Jul. 15 2009 10:47 AM
hjs from 11211

capitalism is dead, if it ever lived

Jul. 15 2009 10:46 AM
Tim Kunz from Baldwin, NY


What does Goldman produce? What do they add to the GDP?

Goldman trades the work and creativity of the rest of us and its goal is to turn that into personal profit for its partners. They redistribute the weealth from all into personal income.

This isn't bad in itself. Sometimes this creates new companies, technologies, etc. However, Goldman (et par.) profits are converted into individual incomes.

Mike from NJ (rehab entrepreneur) is completely wrong. If he were to be taxed to a point he considered excessive, rather than pay the tax, he would grow his business, pay his empoyees more, buy new equipment as the only sane alterative to tax.

We need to restore a top marginal rate of 90+% to return the wealth of the nation to the people who produce it. This will only affect the top fractional percentile. So Mike don't worry about it!

Jul. 15 2009 10:43 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

I thought Daniel Gross sounded bitter and unprofessional. This is not the level of intellectual discussion I would expect from WNYC although, I must admit, that the station does seem to be doing a fair bit of "populist" pandering these days.

Yes, you have a lot of unemployed listeners (I too am unemployed), but it doesn't mean we're all ready to break out our torches and head to the village!

Jul. 15 2009 10:43 AM
wanda bershen from nyc

The profit and bonuses at GS are obscene.
Many of us have had our savings wiped out by similar investment companies -- and the recession is definitley NOT over.
What are we supposed to live on when we are too old to work??
And how are we supposed to find even PT work with unemployment at 9.5%

Assuming my taxes assisted GS enormous profit -- when do I get my cut???

Jul. 15 2009 10:37 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

During the Eisenhower admin, the tax rate for millionaires (3.2 mill) was over 90%. This curbed exuberant wealth and caused business owners to re-invest in their companies rather than fork their profits to uncle sam. Let's go back to that republican tax rate!

Jul. 15 2009 10:36 AM
Adam from Manhattan

Can we get that small business owner back on the phone? I'd really like the name of his business so we all know how uninterested in people's business once the tax rate goes up.

Is he really saying that on the day his taxes go up, he will stop working to expand his business? Or, as he hinted in his 'but it's really a philosophical thing' statement, is this just more "going Galt" BS from conservatives who just don't want to pay a penny more.

Jul. 15 2009 10:35 AM
Cynthia Cohen from Upper West Side

Mike, the health care provider, is insane. He get's, by his own admission, 40% of his revenues from medicaid/medicare (aka the government) and he would not pay %2 more in taxes. INSANITY! And by insanity I mean self-absorbed, unappreciative, narrow minded and basically everything that is wrong with a human being. He's most likely one of those people that is deep in debt, rich in non-liquid assets and basically helped create this recession. Thanks Mike.

Jul. 15 2009 10:34 AM
Monica from Manhattan

I don't have a fundamental problem with Raising Taxes. But I do think that everyone should contribute something to the tax base through income taxes. The current system doesn't tax much of the country. We all have should have a stake in the system and the taxes should reflect that more than they do now.

Jul. 15 2009 10:32 AM
George from Hackensack

Anthony the former GS employee,
You are ignorant. These GS guys get plenty of cash bonuses. What corp. besides these financials give their employess nearly 50% of earnings profits!! And what about the TARP and AIG money they got from U.S.?
Most corps. SAVE their profits for a rainy day, unlike the financials which give half to their greedy employees. Then they cry poverty when there's a problem.

Jul. 15 2009 10:32 AM
Lauren from New York City

Shouldn't any bonus earned this year by goldman sach's go back to the gov't and then earmarked towards funding health care? After all, where would goldman sach's be without the gov't funding? As for small business is time to give them a break. They were overlooked for bailout money...why can't they add the extra tax to large goldman sach's? To the caller who said bonus giving has always been like this....well, my words to him are: It is a new world, and it is time to update the system.

Jul. 15 2009 10:32 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

p.s. stop oversimplifying this and lumping in hardworking people and small business owners in with Wall Street fat cats who make multi million dollar salaries

Jul. 15 2009 10:32 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

The Goldman Sachs caller betrays more than he intends. Goldman execs sold $700 million in the time between getting US government aid and 'returning' the TARP money.

So I guess those recipients of stock-as-bonus are terribly confident in the future of Goldman.

Jul. 15 2009 10:31 AM
Irene from Brooklyn

I can't even talk about this issue without getting angry. All this shows is that once again, the American taxpayer gets the privilege of underwriting huge profits of a tiny percentage of the population, whose greed and outlandish salaries/bonuses helped to distort the entire economy (e.g. making ordinary folks like me pay outrageous rents, and pricing the middle class out of places like New York City and San Francisco)... Now they get to make tons of money again, and we the taxpayers get NOTHING -- except perhaps the promise of "trickle-down economics". Haven't we already seen that trickle-down is a *failed* economic theory!??!
But when the economy crashes again, we'll once again get to bail them out. There has been no change in regulation -- there is still no "skin in the game" demanded of these people. Taxpayer skin is still the only skin on the line.

Jul. 15 2009 10:31 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

Who do we think employs lower to middle class Americans? How about small business owners? Between NJ personal tax increases (RETROACTIVE by the way), planned federal income tax increases, and property tax increases, small business onwers are HURTING. My husband's business is off 75% this year but EVERY tax has increased, including the college tuition for two children.

My husband employs people, including paying their medical insurance and pension plans. If we can't pay our personal obligations, he will have to lay off people.

And, yes, we are Democrats but I'm not sure we can continue to afford this "progress" and still provide for our own family.

Jul. 15 2009 10:31 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

If the caller (owner of rehab co.) does not innovate, expand, etc., because of higher personal income taxes, then he will NOT survive.

As a smart business owner, one always has to innovate to generate more business revenue.

Jul. 15 2009 10:30 AM

I think it's rude for your guest Daniel Gross to giggle in a high-pitched voice at the callers.

Jul. 15 2009 10:30 AM
Marcy from Hackensack

Daniel Gross is great! I'm reupping my subscription to Newsweek. And Diane Brady, too!
Give Goldman Hell!

Jul. 15 2009 10:28 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

In the 1950s, the top marginal income tax rate was somewhere in the neighborhood of 90%. Ninety percent. Yet the 50s were some of the fastest years of growth in American history. So the simplistic, idiotic conservative line that taxes invariably harm the economy is simply false. False on the facts, false on its face.

Jul. 15 2009 10:26 AM
Patricia M. Caiozzo from Glen Head, New York

Regarding annual salaries of $700,000 for Goldman Sachs employees:

Have they NO shame? This kind of over-the-top compensation continues and reinforces the myth that arcane financial instruments, rather than tangible good and services, constitutes the backbone of our economy. The present economic meltdown proves the opposite to be true. In this time of high unemployment and record foreclosures, this sends the wrong message to hard-working Americans and to the world. The message is: The Gilded Age will Continue and Everyone Else Be Damned. Wrong message.

Jul. 15 2009 10:24 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

If the US were a capitalist society, Goldman would no longer exist.

Jul. 15 2009 10:23 AM
Richard Scala from Rivber Edge, NJ

The question are we happy with Goldman bonuses.
As a public corporation you would think the shareholders would have a say on the Wall Street compensation model, but American Corporate boards are not independant. It is amazing that after all we have learned, employees who do not bet their own capital anymore (remember it was not too long ago they were private partnerships), still command being compensated as partners when the real owners get nominal returns.

Jul. 15 2009 10:22 AM
Rick from Connecticut Coast

Eva hit the nail on the head, without the $50 billion taxpayer subsidy to GS, there would be no "profit", they only had to pay back Uncle Sam 20 cents on the dollar.

Jul. 15 2009 10:21 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

Diane Brady fails to mention one key point about off-shore taxes, costs, etc. Many large US businesses artificially lower their bottom lines by selling goods to their own subsidiaries overseas and then having those subsidiaries sell back to the US parent - sell back the _same thing_ for far more money. So the US parent sees a 'loss' and pays lower US tax.

Jul. 15 2009 10:21 AM
hjs from 11211

I'm glad the econonomy is getting better, next step raise taxes and pay for all the problems bush and the GOP created

Jul. 15 2009 10:20 AM
George from Hackensack

RC (commenter #) ...believe me....everybody is making big time bonuses. Of course the traders and investment bankers are making out like pigs at the trough more so than the others. I am certain most of their IT is done in Hyderbad as with all financial co'.s such as S&P where I used to work.

Jul. 15 2009 10:20 AM
Robert from NYC

As Mike Taibi stated on Democracy Now this morning and in an article he wrote in Rolling Stone (I did not read...I don't read) most of these folks were big shots at Goldman Sachs prior to taking on positions in this and the previous administrations. Ooops!! So you choose, watch the DN stream or read the article and he lays it all out there. Goldman Sachs got what they got for that reason and you can't convince me that that's not the case. Coincidence? Yeah, like Blackwater getting all the contracts in Iraq... Cheney's company.

Jul. 15 2009 10:19 AM
Christina from Manhattan

The bloated profits and salary of Goldman Sachs is unconsciounable becasue they are profiting from the problems they caused to begin with. People are scrambling for help with investment, loans, etc., from Goldman but they wouldn't be in a poor position if Goldman hadn't contributed to the financial crisis. Goldman makes money no matter what, just from moving money around from one pocket to another, it doesn't mean there's any contribution to the economy.

Jul. 15 2009 10:19 AM

Why focus on average salary. I don't think the IT people are making 700 grand. What is the distribution of the compensation?

Jul. 15 2009 10:16 AM
Robert from NYC

I'm not at all comfortable with this news. What's happening--if it continues and I have doubts about that--what's happening is the same greedy people who are draining from companies monies that could be put into health insurance and salaries of "lower-on-the-scale" employees, e.g., secretaries, mailroom folk, et alia. And yes, they should not be depending on the Govt to get them out of holes they put themselves into just because the can. i don't like it. Good, real regulation is needed.

Jul. 15 2009 10:16 AM
Igon from Manhattan

Robber Barons are back! They took millions from the taxpayers in TARP money and via the AIG bailout. I know some of these goldman guys from the neighborhood and they laugh while they construct their mansions and take our money. Please continue to draw attention to this and let's claw back these profits.
No we are not okay with GS making these profits.

Jul. 15 2009 10:15 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

The business of banking has hardly changed, and that was the point: For the banking sector to regain its footing and begin to generate huge profits in order to _hopefully_ turn the country's "real economy" around.

There was little charge from within the government itself (besides the millions of concerned citizen-voters) to limit bonus-giving and risk-taking at major investment banks. As we all know and as stated by Sen. Durbin, the banks "frankly own this place [D.C.]."

Jul. 15 2009 10:11 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

"Been Down So Long, Looks Like Up To Me"

Great novel, lousy economy. But that's the standard now proposed for the economy. "It's not going down as fast, so it's going up."

We still don't know how much money Goldman Sachs got from the government because Bernanke and Geithner are still sitting on my of the details. We also don't know how much of the 180 billion AIG turned over to companies like Goldman.

One way or another, We the People have mixed out labor with Goldman Sachs. We own them. They owe us.

Jul. 15 2009 10:10 AM
paulb from Brooklyn

What about the higher savings rate? Approx $630 billion personal savings in April, over $700 Billion in May. Isn't that money going to banks? What's the point of more stimulus spending?


Jul. 15 2009 10:09 AM

How much of the profit was attributed to the relaxation of FASB 157 rule regarding mark to market?

Jul. 15 2009 09:53 AM

Thanks for keeping on this story, Brian. I see a light at the end of the tunnel: Bloomberg News has been hammering Goldman Sachs.

Here's Jon Weil on Bloomberg TV discussing the theft of GS' "doomsday machine." He actually called it that in the title of his column. It would be funny, if it weren't so terrifying:

Separately, my questions for Daniel Gross are as follows:

1) What was GS' total take from the U.S. taxpayer, if you count not just TARP (10 bil), but the AIG take (12.9 bil) and the FDIC loans (30 bil)?
50 billion? And what percentage of that total will be paid back? Just the 10?

2) Is it true that GS only paid 15 Million (with an M, that) in taxes last year?

3) Was Goldman basically underwater last fall without that US $50 billion? GS says they would have been perfectly FINE without the cash from AIG because they hedged so well, even though there's apparently zero transparency on what those hedges to balance the AIG exposure were.

4) What's the latest on the Brunswick LLC group - the group that Bloomberg News tells us is getting 70 grand a MONTH from SIFMA (Securities Industry Financial Markets Association) to create a "grassroots" campaign to rehab the banking sector's reputation?

5) What's up with the "Doomsday Machine" that Bloomberg's Jon Weil reported on?

6) Is there a better example of regulatory capture from any other Wall Street firm? How does this compare to reg. capture historically in the US?

Jul. 15 2009 02:12 AM

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