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Some people say Uncle Sam isn’t doing enough to solve America’s looming retirement crisis.

Just tell that to James Gorman.

The Morgan Stanley chief executive has just retired, at age 65, after racking up a staggering $338 million in pay and bonuses during 14 years at the helm.

The pay total, revealed by company filings, works out at more than $66,000 a day, every day — including Sundays and holidays.

This, of course, was during a period when Morgan Stanley
along with the other big banks, was on the receiving end of generous help by the federal government.

That included a tsunami of easy money provided by the Federal Reserve, through policies such as quantitative easing and zero interest rates.

And it included an almost unprecedented taxpayer-supported backstop for banks, such as Morgan Stanley, officially designated “too big to fail.”

How’s that for a government success story?

Sure, during the same period the funding hole in Social Security has quadrupled, and half of the U.S. has no retirement account at all. But, hey, you can’t have everything!

The Washington euphemism for “too big to fail” is “G-SIB”–“globally systemic investment banks.” Eight banks, including Morgan Stanley, have been explicitly named as so important that the government can’t allow them to go bust, which in turn means they can borrow more cheaply, and operate more securely, than ordinary private sector corporations.

This $338 million figure for Gorman’s accumulated pay is a lowball estimate. It comes simply from adding up his 14 annual pay packages as revealed by company filings. It makes no allowance for all the accumulated gains on his equity-linked bonuses during that time. (OK, it also makes no allowance for tax—though how much he will pay depends on his tax planning and how he is paid.)

I see from the latest filings that he still holds Morgan Stanley stock valued at around $86 million. (Hey, Mr. Gorman — here’s some free tax advice: Try to get a high-level appointment with the next presidential administration. That way, thanks to yet another brilliant plutocrats’ boondoggle, you can sell all your stock and roll the money into diversified mutual funds without having to pay any taxes.)

Morgan Stanley declined to comment on Gorman’s pay package.

It’s quite a haul. You can argue it’s “pay for performance.” Up to a point, anyway. There’s a giveaway line in the company’s latest press release. Gorman’s 2023 pay package hit $37 million, the bank says. It might have hit $40 million if he’d put in the best performance possible, it adds. On the other hand, he might have received “$20 million or less for performance below expectations.”

It’s not quite clear what “or less” means in this context. Let the record show that during the global financial crisis, 15 years ago, the Morgan Stanley honchos had to make do without any bonuses at all.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley also recently handed out $20 million bonuses each to three top executives, including Ted Pick, who took over from Gorman on January 1.

What have Morgan Stanley stockholders received in return for the third of a billion dollars in cash, stock and other goodies they have given Gorman since 2010?

Well, on the one hand, over that time the stock has been the second-best performer among the eight too-big-to-fail U.S. banks, trailing JPMorgan Chase
but outperforming the likes of Goldman Sachs
Bank of America
and Citigroup

On the other hand, during that time it actually underperformed the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF
and it has underperformed the S&P 500 stock index
and the MSCI U.S. Equal Weight index.

Since the start of 2010, Morgan Stanley stock has earned you a total return of 280%. A selection of U.S. large and midcap stocks in the equal-weight index over the same period: 400%.

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