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Wall Street Not Skimping on Bonuses Despite Record Sanctions for Violations

March 11, 2015

Wall Street Not Skimping on Bonuses Despite Record Sanctions for Violations

Statement of Bartlett Naylor, Financial Policy Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: According to an estimate released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the average Wall Street bonus rose 2 percent in 2014 to $172,860.

Wall Street companies are paying record fines for widespread violations, but that doesn’t mean bankers themselves are sacrificing their paychecks.

The average bonus, which is in addition to base pay, is quintuple the average income of New Yorkers not working on Wall Street. These jobs require skill, but it is not rocket science. For that matter, rocket scientists don’t make anything like that, where NASA salaries plateau at $130,000.

New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli identified legal settlements as a prime reason overall Wall Street profits declined slightly in 2014, easing to $16 billion from $16.7 billion in 2013. In 2014, for example, Citigroup paid $7 billion to settle a case in which it sold bad mortgages.

But that didn’t mean the bonus pool declined. It rose. The bonus pool for the 167,800 workers covered by the comptroller’s report totaled $28.5 billion for 2014. In 2013, it was $27.6 billion. In 1986, when the comptroller began collecting this information, the bonus pool totaled $2 billion, for an individual average of $14,120.

Congress approved several reforms in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to address runaway Wall Street pay. It is beyond time for the Securities and Exchange Commission to implement the law.