Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

Do the right thing

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Goldman Sachs sent the business media abuzz this weekend with news that its top executives were voluntarily giving up their annual bonus in a gesture they hope will spread to the rest of the Street. The decision immediately won the praise of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who hailed the move as a “step in the right direction”, while the firm’s spokesperson said, “They believe it’s the right thing to do.”

But don’t expect any applause just yet, at least not from Main Street. Taxpayers around the globe are still fuming about their respective government’s multibillion dollar bank rescue schemes, prompting no shortage of snarky editorials pointing to bloated paycheques and bankers’ cavalier actions for the financial meltdown.

At a time when most bankers are holding on to their jobs by a string — just ask any Citigroup employee how they’re feeling these days — editorialists are quick to point out that bonuses are just that: a bonus.

“The truth is, most of them are lucky to have a job at all and they know it,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s William Cohan.

The tricky business of bonuses

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In these dismal economic times, nothing comes in handy quite like a 5-step program to reclaiming your bonus. Of course, delicacy is key.  With job cuts spreading like wild fire and the Treasury’s seemingly never-ending bailout, everyday taxpayers aren’t going to be rooting for you and your six-figure paycheque.

But as Bloomberg‘s Michael Lewis cheekily points out, all is not lost. You just need to rethink your strategy:

Forget your banking career – join the IRS

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In yet another sign of tough times on Wall Street, dejected financial professionals were among those lined up yesterday for a shot to work for none other than the IRS, the New York Times reports. It’s a curious career move until you look at the circumstances: the battered banking sector has been cutthroat in its downsizing, leaving virtually no job safe. But can anyone remember the last time the IRS downsized?

“You could get a lucrative job in the financial market right now, but how long can you keep it?” says ex-Lehman Brothers staffer Jean Delice. “Everywhere I look, I see layoffs. If I take a $10,000 or $20,000 pay cut, in the long run, I’m ahead. The government is not in the trading business. It will be around.”

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