The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ex-Goldman trader in court over paltry bonus: $8.25 million wasn’t enough

Deeb Salem got an $8.25 million bonus in 2010.

And he feels cheated. Poor guy.

The ex-Goldman Sachs mortgage trader is asking for more from the company he claims did him wrong.

According to a transcript of a February arbitration hearing obtained by Bloomberg News, Salem told his mother three years ago that he expected $13 million for his heroic efforts that year to bring in $7 billion for the bank.

The bonus he thought he would get was down slightly from the $15 million he scored in 2009 – more than the $9 million bonus Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein took home that same year.

Salem claimed a Goldman credit trading executive said he was a “steal” at $15 million at a cocktail party.

After hearing this, Salem was disappointed with his paltry $8.25 million.

The reason for the bonus shrinkage: Salem’s “extremely poor judgment” in detailing his skillful manipulation of the market in the run-up to the housing crisis in a 2007 employee self-evaluation.

The trader’s rather frank evaluation was among the documents subpoenaed by the U.S. Senate and made public in 2011.

In the evaluation, he described Goldman’s plan to “short squeeze” the mortgage market – slang for what a Senate panel later viewed as intentional market manipulation.

“I am as competitive as Michael Jordan,” Salem wrote, according to Senate documents. “I don’t just want to win — I want to win every time and I want to steamroll the opposition.”

Salem now wants more than $16 million from Goldman. After being turned down by an industry arbitrator, he is appealing to the New York State Supreme Court.

“Let’s be very clear: I was one of the most sought-after investment professionals in the mortgage industry,” he said at the February hearing. “I had the opportunity throughout the course of my career and throughout — from that day, from almost every month that I was at Goldman, to leave for other opportunities.”

“There is no dispute that he is very good at trading,” said Andrew Frackman, an attorney for Goldman, at the hearing.

Alas — bonuses are discretionary, the company maintains.

Jonathan Sack, Salem’s attorney, said his client was scapegoated, pointing out that other executives criticized by the Senate went unpunished.

“These claims are utterly ridiculous … and unworthy of any further response,” Tiffany Galvin, a spokesman for Goldman, said in a statement.

The case is scheduled for September.