2008_12_bonuscash.jpgThe NY Times has been running a series of articles "exploring the causes of the financial crisis" and, for today's piece, it explores Wall Street bonuses. And how small groups of senior executives got very real bonuses when their companies' profits were imagined. The prime example is Merrill Lynch's bonus system: In 2006, $5-6 billion in bonus money was handed out; Dow Kim, who headed the mortgage business, made $35 million (99% in bonus money). "But Merrill’s record earnings in 2006 — $7.5 billion — turned out to be a mirage. The company has since lost three times that amount, largely because the mortgage investments that supposedly had powered some of those profits plunged in value." A Harvard Law professor chimes in, "Compensation was flawed top to bottom. The whole organization was responding to distorted incentives.” Which brings us to the present: Credit Suisse is using "illiquid assets" to pay bonuses!