The credit-market freeze that's paralyzing leveraged buyouts, mergers and myriad computer-driven trading strategies may cut Wall Street bonuses for the first time in five years.
"There's a lot of pessimism out there,'' said Gary Goldstein, chief executive officer of executive-search firm Whitney Group in New York. "Looking at the world today as we see it and the impact the crunch is likely to have, it looks like bonus pools will decline.''
Bonuses, the financial industry's annual rite of compensation typically calculated as a multiple of salary, probably will decline as much as 5 percent from 2006, according to Options Group, the New York-based firm that has tracked pay and hiring trends for more than a decade. While the payouts often far exceeded the average of $220,650 at the biggest U.S. securities firms last year and increased as much as 20 percent from 2005, the subprime-mortgage collapse already has drained the punch bowl.
Hardest hit will be employees who create and sell securities backed by mortgages or pools of debt, Options Group said. One out of every three people in those roles may lose their jobs unless business picks up by the end of the year, the firm estimates. Bonuses may fall as much as 40 percent.