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Bankrupt Bankers and billion-dollar bonuses

September 23, 2008 | 11:27 am

Great news! Just when it seems like all the tidings about the economy are terrible -- the  United States financial system is buckling under $700 billion of bad debt, regular people are losing their homes, their jobs and their pensions -- comes reassurance from Wall Street. It turns out that the head honchos at Lehman Brothers, which filed bankruptcy last week, will still be getting their share of the $2.5 billion set aside for staff bonuses.

Barclay's of London, which is buying Lehman Brothers for $1.75 billion, confirmed the news to The Independent. The pool gets divvied up between 10,000 people.

I wonder if that includes the $188 million the company agreed to pay to CEO Richard Fuld a couple of years ago? Maybe not. There seems to be tussle over the $34 million he earned last year. (All told, the Age reported, Lehman's top 5 execs took home $81 million in 2007.)

I know what you're thinking: If the compensation for failure is $2.5 billion, how much is success worth? Oh, wait -- that's not it. You want Barclay's to give those execs a financial haircut! Now, if Lehman had been bailed out by Washington, the bonuses would seem a bit more tenuous. But wait -- a contract is a contract, isn't it? If Lehman employees met the contractural requirements for a bonus, shouldn't they receive it, regardless of the overall company's travails?

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