Wall Street pay and profit hint at bloat

Wall Street
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Wall Street's fortunes are hinting at bloat.

Income, the overall bonus pool and the average financial reward all fell last year at New York City securities industry firms, according to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, and for the second year in a row. Such drops often precede either a recession or a culling of bank staff — or both.

It's rare for all three metrics to be so closely aligned. For most of the past two decades, staff would often do better than shareholders in a down year.

Profit fell by half between 2000 and 2001 as a recession kicked in, for example, yet average bonuses only came down by 26 percent, based on the findings by Thomas DiNapoli's agency.