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Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007 02:07 am

Wall Street’s greedheads

Those wily investment bank honchos snatch obscene bonuses

Untitled Document In December, while children were enjoying visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, the barons of Wall Street were having much richer dreams — and all of theirs came true. The top dogs at the big banking houses gorged themselves on record payouts that have taken greed to new heights of obscenity. The honcho of Goldman Sachs, for example, grabbed a bonus of $53 million — the highest ever taken. And he’s only been CEO since June! Likewise, Morgan Stanley’s chief ended the year with a sweet bonus payment of $41 million; Lehman Brothers’ top executive got only an $11 million bonus, but he’ll also receive $189 million in stock grants over the next 10 years. Bear in mind that these lavish awards are in addition to their regular salaries, platinum-level health-care packages, rich pension plans, and all sorts of kingly perks. Ah, yes, say the corporate royalists, but such extravagant wealth is richly deserved, for it’s the reward for “taking risks” in our system of corporate capitalism. But if it’s “risk” that our economy is to celebrate, then why not hail drug kingpins as pillars of our society? Besides, these brokers are risking not their own personal money in their firms’ speculative ventures but the assets of shareholders and clients. And when their ventures turn sour, as often happens, they don’t have to pay out of pocket — in fact, many are paid bonuses anyway. Note also that much of the profit reaped by Wall Street banks comes from corporate takeovers that result in job cuts, inferior products, inefficiencies, and loss of competition. Our economy loses, but the top bankers still walk away with fat bonuses. These guys are greedheaded profiteers — not “risk-takers” to be either praised or emulated. 

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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