Felix Salmon

The return of the plutocrats

It’s December, which means it’s bonus season, and time for more than the usual amount of bellyaching about pay. Will Bank of America’s TARP repayment give it a bit more wiggle room in terms of CEO compensation, thereby broadening the field of potential successors to Ken Lewis? Will General Motors be able to find a CEO when it’s state-owned and therefore probably won’t be able to pay a typical private-sector salary? Will Goldman Sachs be able to persuade shareholders that its $16 billion bonus pool is reasonable?

Counterparties

Seeking Alpha to Pay Contributors? — Red Herring

The Too Much Joy Royalty Statement — TMJ

“Isn’t a 42-disc set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman taking things just a bit too far?” — Slate

America’s unbanked

The FDIC’s EconomicInclusion.gov website is a fantastic resource for information on the unbanked — it has all the latest figures, including the rather depressing fact that if you look at the black and hispanic population in the US, one in five is unbanked. Single mothers, too, are disproportionately likely to be unbanked, none of which should come as a surprise: all of these things are basically proxies for the likelihood of being poor. And of course if you don’t have a bank account that just makes you poorer, since you’re forced into a system where banking services are much more expensive.

Those dangerous yet well-capitalized banks

David Reilly has a good column today about bank health and capital ratios, honing in on the crucial fact that having a fair amount of capital is not in and of itself sufficient to reassure investors — or even the FDIC — that a bank is healthy. 96% of banks are well-capitalized, according to the FDIC, but 7% of banks are on its problem list, which means that there are dozens of at-risk banks which are also adequately capitalized.

Who cares about charities’ overhead ratios?

Tim Ogden is on the warparth, blogging and tweeting and putting out press releases all trying to “kill the myth of overhead ratios”:

The Roubini rebrand

I’ve always had a soft spot for the original logo, dataing back to when Roubini Global Economics first launched at rgemonitor.com in April 2005:

Return on weaponry datapoint of the day

For really impressive stock-market returns, go to Haradheere, Somalia:

Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel.

Barack Obama, activist shareholder

We got a hint of it when the government ousted Ken Lewis as chairman of Bank of America; it became more obvious with the decisions of pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. And then of course there’s the revolving door into the corner office at AIG. But the defenestration of Fritz Henderson makes it clear if there was any doubt: Barack Obama is the most powerful and effective activist shareholder that this country has seen in a very long time.

The Manhattan income barbell

Did you know that there are more rich households (anything over $192,000 a year for a family of four) in Bay Ridge than there are on the East Side south of 14th Street?