In Britain, the most egregious case was RBS, a now majority state-owned bank that announced in February 2009 that it intended to honour £1 billion in bonus contracts.1
The Barclays chief executive, who was paid £18 million last year, was accused of arrogance 18 months ago when he brazenly told MPs that the “period of remorse” for the banking industry should come to an end.2
[In America] none had gone to jail. And those at the top of the tree on Wall Street were bouncing back apparently without shame or second thought. The bonus season in 2009 was better than ever, netting $145 billion for the executives at the top investment banks, asset managers and hedge funds, as compared with $117 billion in 2008. Goldman made $13.4 billion in profit for its shareholders and paid its own staff $16.2 billion in compensation and bonuses. Astonishingly, even Citigroup, which had a loss of $1.6 billion in 2009 and survived the year only due to government action, paid out $5 billion in bonuses.3
Stock generally constitutes 50% or less of total bonus payments, suggesting Goldman’s total pool – cash included – is likely to have been around $4bn-$5bn for last year.4
1 Tooze, Adam. Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (p. 296). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
3 Tooze p310