Good news: pay to bankers is falling. Bad news: having wiped out the shareholders, they’re still eating all the pies. Morgan Stanley and Citigroup reported tolerable figures only thanks to FVOOD, a piece of accounting nonsense which turns the bank’s deteriorating credit quality into earnings because the market value of its debt has fallen. Goldman Sachs has lost money for only the second quarter in its quoted history. RBS is preparing to swing the axe among its poor bloody infantry.

But among the top ranks, life remains pretty good, if not quite as good as when they were trashing the world’s economy four years ago. We shall have to wait and see whether the profit prestigidation at Citi and MS is miraculously transformed into bonuses, but the rewards in the industry still reflect the bankers’ belief that they are somehow superior beings deserving of seven-figure sums. Ian Gordon of Evolution reckons that 90% of RBS’ income will have disappeared in costs when the nearly-nationalised bank reports its full-year figures – and he’s an apologist for the banks.

Mind you, this pales into insignificance compared to the gold at Goldman. Despite the third-quarter loss, the bonus pool for the first noine months of 2011 totals $10 billion. You can read the gory details here. Suffice to say, that $10 billion is $333,000 per employee, but most of the moolah will end up in the hands of the few, most of whom have already been paid several lifetime’s earnings of, say, a bank clerk. As The Daily Beast’s Gary Rivlin puts it: “That’s the beauty of working at a major investment bank. Performance doesn’t matter nearly as much as just showing up.”

Pickings are (slightly) thinner among the M&A kings who pine for mega-deals, but that doesn’t mean they’re cutting their fees. When Melrose caught welding specialist Charter with its profits down, the Charter executives knew they were toast should Melrose’s opportunist bid succeed. Desperate times need desperate measures, so they turned to Goldman. These are not the moments to query the bill, especially when the bidder’s shareholders may end up paying it; according to The Sunday Times, Charter will have spent £30m on advice alone, most of it coming from the Gold-diggers. Including underwriting fees, the whole farrago will have cost £100m  for  £1.5 billion acquisition. That’s an awful lot of spot welds, but who cares when someone else is paying?

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