new bonuses row

FOUR of Wall Street's biggest banks will this week reveal plans to pay their staff a total of close to $100billion (R742billion), reigniting the row over bankers' bonuses.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are all expected to announce bumper pay awards for staff alongside full-year results.

Wall Street's big payouts come as the remuneration committee at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) prepares to meet this week to determine the size of its bonus pot. RBS, 84percent owned by British taxpayers, has indicated it wants to pay its investment bankers about £1,5billion (R18billion) in bonuses, even though it will make a loss this year at group level. The figure could creep higher if it attempts to shelter its bankers from the effect of Alistair Darling's 50 percent tax on bonuses.

City minister Lord Myners has called a meeting of global finance ministers and regulators in Downing Street this month to discuss other levies that could be introduced to prevent future crises. George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, said this weekend he would support calls for a new global charge on banks.

America's bonus payouts come days after President Barack Obama revealed plans for a windfall tax on banks in an effort to curb the "obscene" bonus culture.

Anger over the huge payments will be heightened by the fact that many of the banks are not profitable. Of the four due to report figures this week, only Goldman is expected to post a profit at the net income level, according to a consensus of analyst forecasts. The losses blow a hole in the argument that the bonuses represent pay for performance.

However, all the banks are expected to show large gains in their investment banking divisions, which have been boosted by financial stimulus operations orchestrated by governments around the world.

Citi, the last of the US banks to pay back the cash it received from the US government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, is expected to clock up losses of about $8,5billion (about R63billion).

Yet it is expected to pay out about $5billion (about R37billion) in bonuses to its investment bankers. It is expected to reveal it has paid its staff more than $30billion (R222billion) in salaries, benefits and bonuses.

JP Morgan, the third-biggest bank in America, posted a huge jump in profits on Friday to almost $12billion. It will pay nearly $6billion (R45billion) in bonuses.