Bear Stearns’s burned faster than one of Jimmy Cayne’s favourite tokes. JPMorgan may have doused the smouldering carcass, but there’s no point in hanging about.
JPMorgan may have picked up the charred remains of what was once one of Wall Street’s finer institutions for a tenth of its market price on Friday, but this is likely to be the beginning rather than the end of the problems for Bear’s 14,000 staff.
Rather than nurturing Bear back to life, JPMorgan’s most likely course of action will be to hive off the tastier elements – the prime brokerage business – and sell the rest on to interested parties.
Of Bear’s 1,400 or so Canary Wharf-based employees, those in its European fixed income division are in a particularly precarious position. With the exception of Wachovia, potential purchasers are likely to face significant overlaps – and it’s hard to envisage the likes of JPMorgan, Barclays Capital or RBS favouring Bear’s smoke-damaged fixed professionals over their own.
Better placed are any senior staff who joined the bank over the past 12 months on guaranteed bonuses. It was, after all, only in January 2007 that Bear avowed its intention to add 2,000 people in Europe before 2009. Anyone hired since then should have negotiated a healthy – preferably two-year – package, and will now be able to have a leisurely look for alternatives. If not, they only have themselves to blame.
Worst placed of all are the analysts who joined the bank in the past two years and are due to receive bonuses for everything they’ve done since July 2007 in the coming June. That currently looks about as likely as the bank’s proposed move to a more sumptuous Canary Wharf office in 2009.
In the meantime, Bear’s still soliciting unsuspecting candidates via its European recruitment website, which is inviting the plain desperate or simply stupid to “Become a part of our outstanding team, and write your own chapter in our success story”.