Facebook’s top execs took home hefty bonuses in the second half of 2020, partially as a reward for the company’s ‘election integrity efforts’

Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Facebook executives got 110% bonuses in the second half of 2020, according to a new SEC filing.
  • The bonuses were partially tied to Facebook’s “election integrity” efforts.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t participate in the employee bonus program.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s two lieutenants got a big pay day for their work around last year’s election: COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Wehner got just shy of $1 million in bonus compensation for the second half of 2020.

Those bonuses, awarded at 110%, were at least partially tied to “election integrity efforts in connection with the U.S. 2020 elections,” according to an SEC filing from the company first spotted by The Information.

Ahead of the November 2020 elections, Facebook rolled out a number of measures intended to curb misinformation and promote voting.

The company added labels to all posts about voting that came from federal elected officials and candidates, it paused political ad buying for months, and opened an information center intended to inform users about voting laws. Those efforts were apparently considered a success if the bonus payouts are any indication.

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In the years following the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook struggled with how to moderate speech and advertising from politicians and political campaigns.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has remained steadfast in his argument that political advertising is equivalent to political speech, and that political speech shouldn’t be moderated by the social media giant.

“In a democracy it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying so they can make their own judgments,” Zuckerberg said in a late 2019 interview with CBS This Morning cohost Gayle King. “I don’t think that a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”

Following the 2020 US election, as former President Donald Trump repeatedly insisted that the election had been “stolen” and Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building, Facebook took the unprecedented step of outright banning Trump from its platforms.

“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” Zuckerberg said in January. “The risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

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The minimum wage would be $44 per hour if it had grown at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses

GettyImages 1207533986 Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 17, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks rallied Tuesday on expectations for massive federal stimulus to address the economic hit from the coronavirus, partially recovering some of their losses from the prior session. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Wall Street employees based in New York City earned an average bonus of $184,000 last year – a 10% increase from the year before.

The chaos that the pandemic unleashed on America’s economy turned out to be a major boon for Wall Street traders, according to new data from the New York State comptroller’s office.

Wall Street firms paid their New York City-based traders an average bonus of $184,000 last year, a 10% increase from 2019, New York comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a press release Friday.

But those paydays have been skyrocketing for decades. Since 1985, Wall Street traders’ bonuses have grown 1,217% – and that’s just a fraction of their overall pay, which was more than $406,000 in 2019, according to data from DiNapoli’s office.

By comparison, the federal minimum wage has flatlined at $7.25 per hour – or $15,080 annually – for 12 consecutive years. When adjusted for inflation, it has actually decreased by 11% since 1985.

If the minimum wage had instead grown at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses, it would be $44.12 per hour today.

Unlike a majority of the US, Wall Street saw massive financial success in 2020, and experts say it exposed just how detached the industry has become from the rest of the country’s reality.

“It’s just another reminder that there’s a total disconnect between what happens on Wall Street and what happens in people’s everyday lives and in the real economy,” Sarah Anderson, director of the global economy program at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Insider.

Read more: Reddit day traders wanted to beat Wall Street to prove the system is rigged. Instead, they did it by losing.

The stock market blew past pre-pandemic levels months ago as millions of Americans still struggled to find work, while increased volatility in the markets led to record years for Wall Street firms that netted bank executives paydays of up to $33 million, even as many banks laid off workers despite promises not to during the pandemic.

In a blog post for IPS on Monday, Anderson highlighted how deregulation of the financial industry has allowed firms to link traders’ pay packages to increasingly risky investing practices that are mostly only beneficial for Wall Street.

“So much of what is the most rewarded on Wall Street is the kind of trading activity that really doesn’t add a lot to the real economy and isn’t essential,” Anderson told Insider, adding that last year’s huge bonuses were “mostly because of market volatility, not necessarily because they’ve added a lot of value to the economy.”

After the 2008 financial crisis, lawmakers passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which banned pay packages with “inappropriate risks,” but Wall Street lobbyists have successfully blocked efforts to implement the rule for years.

IPS’ report also examined how Wall Street has made racial and gender pay disparities worse because they’ve disproportionately hired white male employees for decades while people of color and women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs.

“Nationally, securities industry employees are 80.5 percent white, 5.8 percent Black, 11.5 percent Asian, and 8.1 percent Latino. By contrast, whites make up an estimated 55.4 percent of people in jobs that pay less than $15 per hour,” Anderson wrote.

Wall Street’s risky, lucrative business models and pay practices are coming under increased scrutiny as the pandemic forces Americans to reckon with the country’s growing inequality.

“I just hope that it will lead to a real assessment of how skewed our values are when people doing these essential jobs are paid such a pittance compared to people on Wall Street,” Anderson told Insider.

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Goldman CEO David Solomon given a $10 million pay cut as punishment for firm’s involvement in bribery scandal

David Solomon goldman sachs
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon speaks at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference.

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon’s pay was cut by $10 million in 2020 in response to the bank’s role in one of the biggest financial scandals in history, which has led to record-setting multibillion-dollar regulatory fines and multiple criminal indictments.

The pay cuts came in response to a nearly $3 billion settlement that Goldman reached with the US Department of Justice last year where it admitted it violated US anti-corruption laws by offering bribes to foreign government officials to win business from Malaysia’s 1MDB fund – the largest such fine ever paid by a US firm.

Solomon’s total compensation was still $17.5 million last year after accounting for the penalty, down 36% from the $27.5 million he made in 2019, the bank said in a regulatory filing Tuesday. That included a $2 million base salary, $2.65 million cash bonus, and $10.85 million in performance-related stock.

Goldman also slashed COO John Waldron’s pay by $6 million, to $18.5 million, and CFO Stephen Scherr’s pay by $7 million, to $15.5 million.

Goldman also faced investigations from international regulators in more than 14 countries including the US, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the UK. Malaysian regulators reached a $3.9 billion settlement with the bank last July, and two Goldman employees have been criminally indicted for their alleged actions.

The filing said that, while none of Goldman’s three top executives were “involved in or aware of” any illicit activity by the company at the time, its board of directors “views the 1MDB matter as an institutional failure, inconsistent with the high expectations it has for the firm.”

Goldman beat Wall Street expectations last quarter, bringing in $11.7 billion in revenue as pandemic-related volatility helped boost the performance of its trading desks and deal-advising business.

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