Jim Armitage: Goldman Sachs, the cleverest of banks, was always going to find a way around Brussels' efforts to put a limit on its lavish bonuses

Global outlook: Whatever deal Goldman has struck, expect other global banks to follow

We should have guessed. Goldman Sachs, the bank that created the most complex alphabetti spaghetti derivatives, options, swaps and other financial “instruments”, the bank that invented devices enabling Greece to game the euro entry rules, the bank which found a way to make the US taxpayer repay it 100 cents in the dollar for its multibillion-dollar exposure to the collapsed AIG, was never not going to find a way around the European bonus cap.

This cleverest of banks, stuffed with the smartest, most ruthless money-making minds in the world, was always going to be the first to ensure its famously lavish pay structures would survive the best efforts of Brussels.

And so it is that “GS”, as its simple Wall Street ticker code calls it, has reportedly found a way around the system yet again. British regulators, working for a Government which never liked the caps in the first place, have approved a plan reputedly as complex as the most baffling CMBS, CDS or other exotic derivative that Goldman ever created.

It’s easy to imagine the watchdog-mandarins being suckered in like those saps of Colonel Gadaffi allegedly were in Libya’s sovereign wealth fund. Think Mowgli gazing into the kaleidoscope eyes of Kaa.

Nobody knows precisely how Goldman has done it, so we are left to guess.

The phrase “role-based allowances” is apparently to be used instead of “bonus” for part of the variable pay contracts. But quite what that is we can but conjecture.

Clearly, it cannot be individually performance based or it will fall foul of the EU rules. We know that allowances will be paid monthly and vary depending on the “economic conditions”. This is, the bank argues, to give itself some flexibility with the payroll for when the next big downturn, or upturn, comes. If you won’t let us slash bonuses in times of financial famine, at least allow us variable allowances based on the economy, it argues.

But “economic conditions” seems a weaselly expression. Do the economic conditions being experienced by the bank not depend at least partly on the success of trades carried out by its staff? economic conditions for John Paulson’s hedge fund were just dandy during the financial crisis, because he had a bet the size of Fort Knox against the subprime mortgage market. The point is that all banks have different views on what the ideal economic condition is, and they adjust their exposures accordingly.

Hopefully, the regulator has forbidden any such trickery about the economic definition and has insisted on some fairly straightforward measure. European GDP and employment growth would be nice, given that the purpose of these giant banks is to invest and support European enterprise. Perhaps even a blend of GDP growth, jobs and net lending by banks.

But don’t expect anything so simple.

Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if the pay related to those external factors is geared so the wage rises exponentially on the up and falls only slightly on the way down. Heads we win, tails Brussels loses.

Whatever deal Goldman has struck, expect other global banks to follow. We know Barclays has already started negotiating on its own role-based allowance scheme. Just don’t expect it to be as clever.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

News

Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls

Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?