Win or Lose, You Win, If…

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Wall Street's cushy exile – November 26, 2007

… if you're a top executive. Same thing is proving true in the investment banking world, even after the mortgage mess. The grand strategic decision to not verify borrowers' incomes, for one, has led to outcomes that shouldn't have been unexpected, creating a mess that is hurting many employees and many homeowners.

FORTUNE Magazine's Allan P. Sloan (hardly a leftist) writes:

Even if you flame out on Wall Street, you still get to keep the money. That's one of the lessons we learn from the fall of Chuck Prince and Stan O'Neal, who have bitten the dust because Citigroup and Merrill Lynch had to take billions in losses on securities that were overvalued on their books.

And…

Now, watch this. You can make a case that by writing down these securities now, Citi and Merrill are in effect saying that some of the profits they recorded in earlier years, when the securities went onto their books, were overstated. But Prince and O'Neal were paid like royalty – $25.6 million in cash, stock, and options for Prince last year, $48 million for O'Neal – in large part based on the profits that Citi and Merrill reported.

In a world that believed in capitalism for all, Citi and Merrill would ask their now former chief executives to return the portion of their 2006 income that derived from those overstated profits. What are the chances of that? Roughly zero.

By comparison, Toyota's leaders are horribly underpaid and downright modest. If Toyota were to have some sort of meltdown (which I'm not expecting), I'm sure their leaders would follow the model of leaders who resigned in 1950, the last time they had to layoff employees.

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