Bank bonuses soar; White House probing Kushner loans

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Happy days are here again: Wall Street bankers earned an average bonus last year of $184,220, or an aggregate $31.7 billion, up 17% from a year earlier and the largest bonus pool since before the financial crisis. The percentage gain was the biggest since 2013. The average bonus was just below the record high of $191,360 in 2006, just before the crisis. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Washington Post

Not real change: The Federal Reserve is facing criticism for its reported picks for top positions at the central bank “amid calls for greater diversity.” John Williams, the head of the San Francisco Fed, is reportedly the front-runner to succeed William Dudley as powerful New York Fed president, while Richard Clarida has been mentioned as President Trump’s likely choice as Fed vice chair. “There is something in this process that isn’t right,” said Julia Coronado at MacroPolicy Perspectives. “They declared diversity to be a priority and did not deliver. Why?” Financial Times, New York Times, American Banker

Turning up the heat: Banks and credit unions plan to put pressure on Republicans in the House to pass a bank deregulation bill. Lawmakers in the lower chamber want to make changes to the bipartisan bill passed recently by the Senate, where there is strong resistance to any major amendments. “The deadlock has lobbyists for the banking industry and credit unions growing increasingly frustrated with the House,” the Hill website reports, and they plan to use the two-week Easter recess to lobby House Republicans.

But even without that bill, “banks can expect to see a surge in relief” once Jelena McWilliams is seated as the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., likely next month. “When that happens, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency will be able to move ahead on a number of the Trump administration’s policy priorities, such as adjusting capital and liquidity requirements, easing restrictions on short-term consumer loans and relaxing the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law’s proprietary trading ban, the Volcker rule.”

Leaving: Harry Keogh, the banker at Coutts & Co. who was disciplined several years ago following complaints by female employees that he physically and verbally harassed them, resigned last week. Keough’s 2015 reprimand by the tony British private bank, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, came to light recently and was met by harsh criticism from some who felt he should have been fired. The bank said Keogh made the decision due to “recent media attention and the consequent strain placed on him and his family.” Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

Wall Street Journal

Ethics probe: The White House is examining whether two large loans to President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate business may have violated any criminal laws or federal ethics rules. The Office of Government Ethics is looking into a $325 million loan from Citigroup and a $184 million loan from Apollo Global Management to determine if they were done properly. Kushner met with top executives of both firms before the loans were made.

Financial Times

Busted: Spanish police arrested a Ukrainian “computer genius” they believe is the head of a gang of cybercriminals who have stolen more than €1 billion from 100 banks in 40 countries by hacking into their computers and ordering ATMs to spit out cash. The gang also allegedly inflated account balances and then cashed them out.

Banned again: Twitter has joined Google and Facebook in banning advertisements for initial coin offerings, and will also limit ads from cryptocurrency exchanges and online cryptocurrency wallet services. “The move is another blow to the fast-growing infrastructure that supports digital currency issuance and trading,” the paper says.

New York Times

Staff support: Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat discusses the bank’s recent decision to stop doing business with gun sellers. “I would say from our employees, it has been overwhelmingly to virtually unanimously positive,” Corbat said.


“I have discussed this matter with the White House Counsel’s Office in order to ensure that they have begun the process of ascertaining the facts necessary to determine whether any law or regulation has been violated. During that discussion, the White House informed me that they had already begun this process.” — David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, in a letter to a Democrat Congressman about loans made to Jared Kushner.

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