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Jan 17, 2020

Morgan Stanley cuts CEO's pay to US$27M despite record year

James Gorman Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

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Morgan Stanley just had its most profitable year on record. It wasn’t enough for its chief to land a pay bump.

James Gorman’s compensation fell as the firm announced he will receive US$27 million for 2019, according to a regulatory filing Friday. That’s a 6.9 per cent decline from the prior year and on par with the package the chief executive officer received in 2017.

The move is another signal that the New York-based bank is focused on keeping costs down. It recently embarked on a plan to cut 2 per cent of its global workforce and this week elevated the fewest executives to managing directors since 2002. The firm has set an ambitious goal to boost its profitability metrics and slash the amount it spends to book every new dollar of revenue. It wants to push the so-called efficiency ratio to below 70 per cent from 73 per cent in 2019.

The step-down in pay for the CEO will probably have a knock-on effect for the rest of its senior management.

The bank this week reported a massive surge in bond-trading revenue for the fourth quarter, which helped push its 2019 revenue and net income to a record, and its market value above that of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Morgan Stanley shares returned 33 per cent last year, including reinvested dividends, outpacing the 32 per cent gain in the S&P 500 Financial Index.

Gorman’s package consists of US$1.5 in salary and a US$6.4 million bonus. He also got US$19.1 million in long-term awards, which pay out in shares and are partially tied to return on equity and shareholder return targets.