(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG is rebuffing pressure from top performers to restructure retention bonuses after the awards tumbled in value last year and opened the way for more defections, according to people familiar with the matter.

The bank told key staff in recent weeks it won’t make any changes to the program, which began in 2017, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks were private. Senior executives including Mark Fedorcik, co-president of the investment bank, have sought to retool the bonuses after the share price slid far below the level needed for full payout, the people said. Some employees have been weighing career options, worried a potential merger with Commerzbank AG might crimp their future compensation.

To ensure crucial talent didn’t flee, the firm earmarked more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in retention awards to about 5,500 employees in 2017. But the payouts take as long as six years to vest, and half are in the form of equity that will be withheld if the stock misses an undisclosed target. The stock slumped 56 percent last year, leaving the price below half the level needed, people familiar with the matter have said.

Deutsche Bank has said it set a minimum stock price when designing the bonuses “to further align the awards with the long-term health of our bank and the interests of our shareholders.” Yet the price is now so much lower than what’s required, that some employees are giving up.

A representative for the company declined to comment.

Departures from the investment bank in the past year included Charles Dupree, the top mergers and acquisitions banker in the Americas, and Tadhg Flood, co-head of financial institutions banking. Brad Kurtzman, head of the equities unit in the Americas, will depart at the end of March, according to a recent memo to staff.

The company has told employees of deep cuts to 2018 bonuses, people familiar with the matter said last week. The firm lowered its annual bonus pool by 10 percent to 15 percent from the prior year, one of the people said. While some top performers got raises, and others including new hires were guaranteed payouts, it’ll withhold bonuses entirely from certain bankers in New York and London, the people said.

Analysts at Bank of America Corp. wrote in a note this week that it’s an open question whether Deutsche Bank would be able to maintain the pay and incentive structure of a global investment bank if it were to merge with Commerzbank, Germany’s second-largest lender.

This month, two labor leaders on Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board came out against a combination over concerns such a deal would lead to thousands of job cuts. As many as 30,000 positions could be at risk if a deal were reached, according to people familiar with the situation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sonali Basak in New York at sbasak7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael J. Moore at mmoore55@bloomberg.net, David Scheer, Dan Reichl

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