Here is a slice of life from the new reality of Wall Street:
A couple of weeks ago, when the US House of Representatives handily passed legislation to impose a 90 percent tax on certain bonus recipients of firms that received $5 billion or more from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), employees of Goldman Sachs received a voicemail from corporate asking them not to use company phone lines to call their representatives to complain.
It’s just one more sign that the government bailout package has split Wall Street into two distinct camps: the TARP-edoed and the un-TARP-edoed. And the past week served as a useful reminder of the perils of being the former vis-à-vis the latter.
Within just a couple of days, we learned that Morgan Stanley – recipient of $10 billion from the government’s first tranche of TARP funding – lost two star dealmakers from its infrastructure team.
In Chicago, its head of infrastructure investment banking for the Americas, Rob Collins, joined boutique investment bank Greenhill to head up its foray into infrastructure investment banking.
In London, executive director Emmett McCann, who advised Indiana on its $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road alongside Mark Florian while both were still at Goldman, left Morgan Stanley to join one of his group’s clients, Highstar Capital.
Two does not a pattern make. But look at the names of former employers of heavy-hitters joining un-TARP-edoed Macquarie as it broadens its North American investment banking platform beyond infrastructure. Certain names keep popping up: Morgan Stanley, Citi, Goldman.
Meanwhile, others are striking out on their own. JPMorgan’s Kevin Carney left its infrastructure advisory team even as it was planning CenterPoint’s historic bid for the Port of Virginia to start up his own shop – Infrastructure Capital Advisors (ICA).
ICA has been retained as an advisor on the Port of Virginia transaction. Carney also gets a transaction fee of $750,000 from the Port of Corpus Christi and a monthly retainer of $4,000 if the port manages to develop the LaQuinta Trade Gateway Terminal – another project for which JPMorgan won an advisory mandate.
In the end, of course, people come and go for many reasons. And the bonus-smothering legislation may not necessarily be passed in its current form.
Still, a clear signal has been sent: compensation at traditional Wall Street firms is under scrutiny, and there may well be limitations or invasive transparency rules established. This will give star dealmakers one more thing to think about when the head hunters call.
So expect more blockbuster people moves, more asset sales to pay off TARP as quickly as possible and – perhaps – more voicemails from corporate in the months to come.