IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/uma/periwp/wp209_revised3.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Bonus-Driven “Rainmaker” Financial Firm: How These Firms Enrich Top Employees, Destroy Shareholder Value and Create Systemic Financial Instability (revised)

Author

Listed:
  • James Crotty

Abstract

Revised June 2011We recently experienced a global financial crisis so severe that only massive rescue operations by governments around the world prevented a total financial market meltdown and perhaps another global Great Depression. One precondition for the crisis was the perverse, bonus-driven compensation structure employed in important financial institutions such as investment banks. This structure provided the rational incentive for key decision makers in these firms (who I call “rainmakers”) to take the excessive risk and employ excessive leverage in the bubble that helped create the bubble and make the crisis so severe. This paper presents and evaluates extensive data on compensation practices in investment banks and other important financial institutions. These data show that rainmaker compensation has been rising rapidly, is very large, and has asymmetric properties that induce reckless risk-taking. Since boom-period bonuses do not have to be returned if rainmaker decisions eventually lead to losses for their firms, since large bonuses continue to be paid even when firms in fact suffer large losses, and since governments can be counted on to bail out the largest financial firms in a crisis, it is rational for rainmakers to use unsustainable leverage to invest in recklessly risky assets in the bubble. A review of the modest literature on financial firm compensation practices in general and those of investment banks in particular demonstrates that the giant bonuses of the recent past are not appropriate returns to human capital – they are unjustified rents. The paper discusses possible answers to the challenging questions: what is the source of rainmaker rents and how are they sustained over time? Answers to these questions can help guide debates over the appropriate regulation of financial markets. They are also necessary inputs to the development of an adequate theory of the “rainmaker” financial firm that can help us understand how these firms were able to maximize the compensation of their key employees through policies that destroyed shareholder value and created systemic financial fragility. To my knowledge, no such theory currently exists.

Suggested Citation

  • James Crotty, 2010. "The Bonus-Driven “Rainmaker” Financial Firm: How These Firms Enrich Top Employees, Destroy Shareholder Value and Create Systemic Financial Instability (revised)," Working Papers wp209_revised3, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp209_revised3
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_201-250/WP209_revised3.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Thomas Philippon & Ariell Reshef, 2009. "Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry: 1909-2006," NBER Working Papers 14644, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. George A. Akerlof & Paul M. Romer, 1993. "Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 24(2), pages 1-74.
    3. James Crotty, 2009. "The Bonus-Driven “Rainmaker” Financial Firm: How These Firms Enrich Top Employees, Destroy Shareholder Value and Create Systemic Financial Instability," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2009-13, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 1065-1188, November.
    5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    6. James Crotty, 2007. "If Financial Market Competition is so Intense, Why are Financial Firm Profits so High? Reflections on the Current ‘Golden Age’ of Finance," Working Papers wp134, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    7. James Crotty, 2009. "Structural causes of the global financial crisis: a critical assessment of the 'new financial architecture'," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(4), pages 563-580, July.
    8. Marianne Bertrand & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2009. "Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Corporate and Financial Sectors," NBER Working Papers 14681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Assar Lindbeck & Dennis J. Snower, 2001. "Insiders versus Outsiders," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 165-188, Winter.
    10. Alan D. Morrison & William J. Wilhelm, 2004. "The Demise of Investment-Banking Partnerships: Theory and Evidence," OFRC Working Papers Series 2004fe14, Oxford Financial Research Centre.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Krishnan Sharma, 2012. "Financial sector compensation and excess risk-taking—a consideration of the issues and policy lessons," Working Papers 115, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    2. Jean Arcand & Enrico Berkes & Ugo Panizza, 2015. "Too much finance?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 105-148, June.
    3. James Crotty, 2011. "The Realism of Assumptions Does Matter: Why Keynes-Minsky Theory Must Replace Efficient Market Theory as the Guide to Financial Regulation Policy," Working Papers wp255, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    4. Kneer, E.C., 2013. "Essays on the size of the financial aector, financial liberalization and growth," Other publications TiSEM e0f0b672-ce74-40a3-8222-2, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    bonuses; investment banks; leverage; financial crisis; perverse incentives;

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp209_revised3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Judy Fogg). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/permaus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.