Here’s an Idea . . .

. . . since the Geithner-Summers team seems to be looking for them.

Why not say that all bank compensation above a baseline amount – say, $150,000 in annual salary – has to be paid in toxic assets off the bank’s balance sheet? Instead of getting a check for $10,000, the employee would get $10,000 in toxic assets, at their current book value. A federal regulator can decide which assets to pay compensation in; if they were all fairly valued, then it wouldn’t matter which ones the regulator chose. That would get the assets off the bank’s balance sheet, and into the hands of the people responsible for putting them there – at the value that they insist they are worth. Of course, the average employee does not get to set the balance sheet value of the assets, and may not have been involved in creating or buying those particular assets. But think about the incentives: talented people will flow to the companies that are valuing their assets the most realistically (since inflated valuations translate directly into lower compensation), which will give companies the incentive to be realistic in their valuations. (Banks could inflate their nominal compensation amounts to compensate for their overvalued assets, but then they would have to take larger losses on their income statements.)

We can dream, can’t we?

31 thoughts on “Here’s an Idea . . .

  1. In fact, this is what Credit Suisse did with their bonus plan in 2008. It linked the bonus payouts for its top investment bankers to illiquid assets

  2. And employees at firms where valuations were too high would be penalized; they would pay taxes on 100% of the book value… so if the asset were only worth 50% of book, the bonus would actually cost them money.

    Definitely one way to get employees to vote with their feet (and for them to stop yearning for a year-end bonus).

  3. ok, pay me in toxic assets.

    i will promptly advertise them for sale for 5 cents on the dollar, in the wall street journal.

    how’s that for price discovery?

    oh, and please forward any future calls about purchasing securities directly to my cell phone.

  4. 95% of the public was against the bailout but Wall Street bought the representatives (74% voted in favor). How about having our representatives insure the value of these public bailout “investments” with their personal wealth as collateral?

  5. While I agree with your sentiment, you’re numbers are way too low. Don’t think for a moment that the executive salaries are anywhere near as low as what you’ve stated. And bonuses? Please. The amounts you’ve stated affect hard-working people supporting families that have absolutely nothing to do with the “talent” that put us where we are.

    The issue is that all the top execs are in bed with each other via their respective boards. “I’ll give you a great severance for bankrupting your company and you do the same for me.”

  6. How about letting these companies fail?
    The $500K cap is way too high, I live & work in Midtown NYC. $200K is more than enough.

  7. The biggest flaw of the bailout is conceptual. They are holding assets that have little value..or less than what the banks would like to sell them at.

    It doesn’t matter if you solve this problem…that is the problem with dicking around trying to solve it. The core problem is that there are not enough places to park investment. 1 sentence.

    We can talk about the bad assets and the mistrust all we want…but this is how a bust looks, fear to lend existed countless times before. It looks about the same each time, only with new wrinkles. Securitization isn’t the problem, too much wealth at the top is the core problem..only solving that will end the depression.

  8. Another name for Regulation is “Laws”. So when somebody says they support deregulation of Wall Street, they actually want to make Wall Street a lawless domain where everything is legal, nothing is unethical and only fools have morals.

  9. Brilliant. I haven’t fully thought this through, it occurred to me that that would leave the high flyers with a paper, that they will want to be able to spend, somehow … either by exchanging for dollars in an open market (including the remaining inventories) … thus establishing actual present market value, or by simply trading assets with other people who have what they want, e.g. barter. “I’ll trade you 4 GM’s for your junk mortages.”

    Everyone knows barter is awkward and impractical for an economy of this size … but what would be feasible would be for the toxic assets to be issued in paper form, and in small denominations. A similar situation existed before the Fed with individual banks issuing notes that served as money. These guys love to securitize everything, any, so why not force them to bundle the heaps of paper in a manageable number … (six?) … the relative value of which could be sorted out on the Forex of a similar new market.

    bankers who overvalued in the extreme would be punished the most, and those who were above board would receive compensation closet the purchasing power they would otherwise have had if they had been paid directly in dollars.

    The baseline suggestion seems to clean up the immediate mess … and could lead to a situation where is simply put of business, because, while the value of the toxic assets is not known at this time, they do represents assets like land, homes, businesses.

    I thought there might be a path to asset-based money without returning to a gold standard, a path to ending the Fed’s fiat money system, and a more sound and less suspect economy on which to build on, on our way out this mess.

    Does this extension of the Baseline idea have any merrit?

  10. These assets are probably CDOs with a minimal value of $100 million. You can’t break them up into $10,000 pieces. I love how this crisis had suddenly made every jackass a financial expert with “the solution”.

  11. Actually, it’s pretty simple. The bank creates a fund and puts the assets in the fund. Employees get shares in the fund, just like any other mutual fund. If they want to redeem their shares, they put in a redemption request, and the fund sells enough assets to pay out the redemptions. There are lots of other problems with this idea, but that isn’t one of them.

  12. This idea has got to be made viral. Get it out to everywhere on the web, and force those in “power” to adjust to what the people want to do with those assets. After all, we in effect already own a large chunk of the banks already.

  13. excellent idea and most comments agree except for the one rude person that says “These assets are probably CDOs with a minimal value of $100 million. You can’t break them up into $10,000 pieces. I love how this crisis had suddenly made every jackass a financial expert with “the solution”.” I note that this comment is anonymous – who’s the jackass?

  14. Further. All lobbyist bribes to politicians should be paid in toxic assets.

    And let them give “$100 million” CDOs at a time. It’s not like it’s real money, anyway. At least, not until Congress tried to make it into real money. Let them take it as bribes, instead.

  15. In the sixties, I remember someone suggesting that you could show your displeasure with a corporation by mailing their Postage Guaranteed envelope to a cinder block and posting it. Never tried it but my mail deliverer thought it would work. Maybe a credit card soliciation envelope full of blank pages would serve to show your dissatisfaction with there bank.

    Ingite your rage, use you consumer voice, move your cash deposits.

Comments are closed.