License article

Goldman provides lesson in tightening executive belts

Poor Goldman Sachs retiree Stephen Fitzgerald - not only was he pipped at the post for Future Fund chairman by the cuddlier-to-Canberra David Gonski, but his bonus from the investment bank was slashed by $1.4 million last year.

Fitzgerald, who until the end of last month was chairman of the Australia and New Zealand business at Goldman, was not the only big loser at the company.

His former co-chief executive, Simon Rothery, also ended the year $1 million lighter amid collective belt-tightening in the industry.

Goldman's accounts over the past couple of years reflect the sorts of outcomes for executives that many a shareholder would prefer to see occur in listed public companies - where profits and dividends retreat, or even evaporate, but executive salary packages seem to stand immune.

In calendar 2009, 10 of Goldman's senior management earned bonuses above $100,000 - six of them more than $500,000, with Fitzgerald and Rothery each getting $2.4 million.

By 2010, there were still six in the elite category, but the two leaders had each shed $1 million of their bonuses, and none of the remaining four received cash payouts above $600,000. Last year, Rothery's bonus was the best - and it was only $355,000 plus sundry change.


Fascinatingly, even though the previous year was another one of sackcloth and ashes for most in the investment banking and stockbroking arena, somehow by the time the dividends had been passed up from various arms of Goldman to the local parent company, it reported a more than doubled profit of $310 million.

While that seems to defy logic, Insider had little success in finding anyone from Goldman who wanted to discuss the outcome. The closest was that the upstreamed dividend payments reflected capital reallocation within the group, rather than trading performance, after its financial restructuring since it unbundled the old JBWere business by selling it to National Australia Bank.

Goldman Sachs Holdings ANZ is a small contributor to the New York group that earned $US4.44 billion ($4.27 billion) in calendar 2011, but is carrying $US207 million of franking credits on its books for less rainy days.


Vision Eye Institute and fellow eye doctors have, at least temporarily, averted a bureaucratic pen stroke that could have cost them millions - not to mention the potential effects on patients.

Vision called a halt to trading in its shares last week after learning that the Department of Health and Ageing had reclassified the increasingly ''popular'' eye injection treatments into a category of Medicare benefit that would have virtually stopped doctors carrying them out as day surgery procedures.

Insider hears the change was made, like so many in recent years, without warning or consultation with the industry.

Intravitreal injections are now being widely used to save the sight of patients suffering from diseases such as macular degeneration, blocked blood vessels and the side effects of diabetes.

Medicare data nominates the chargeable price of an injection at $295, and the Vision chief executive, Geoff Thompson, says the treatment can require up to 12 such injections. Those with private health insurance can claim the cost under the existing classification, but the decision at the end of last month to move the treatment down a notch could have meant health funds would no longer cover the injections.

The eye doctors' union, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists did some quick lobbying in Canberra last week, resulting in the department agreeing to hold back on the change while it entered a ''consultation process with stakeholders''.

Insider can tell you that in the past 10 years, the annual Medicare bill for the injections has soared from less than $500,000 to almost $50 million in 2010-11. Remember it only refunds up to 85 per cent of the cost.

The latest data to February has the national bill running at $5 million a month, which means $60 million in the full year.

Clearly the benefits of the surgery have caught on strongly in NSW and Queensland, which between them account for two-thirds of the costs. Queensland is punching above its weight when you compare it with Victoria. While patients received about 28,000 such injections in each of the two states last financial year, the cost attributed to Queensland was nearly 50 per cent more than in Victoria.

Thompson did not want to go near calculating what the financial effect on his group might be if the health department decides to go ahead with the reclassification - small wonder given the company's share price performance this year.

Since it released stronger than expected half-year profit numbers and revised its full-year forecasts upwards, the shares have soared from 10¢ to almost 40¢, before settling back in the 30¢ to 35¢ range.


The six-year banning of the speculative options trader Neil William King by the Federal Court yesterday is a pyrrhic victory for the investors who dropped about $3.5 million trading with him - but a good start by the corporate regulator.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission says King and his Camelot Derivatives ran seminars proclaiming their trading successes to induce investors to place their money with him.

The regulator reckons that ''between January 2008 and December 2009, 50 Camelot clients lost over $2.47 million while paying commissions of over $2.45 million; and in 2010 16 Camelot clients lost $982,432 while paying commissions over $1.03 million''.

Judging by what Insider has seen of Camelot Derivatives' liquidator's reports, it took some pressing by investors to get King rubbed out - including one physical confrontation with a client at the Southport Sharks club.

King apparently did not turn up at the creditors' meeting, instead sending a letter defending his use of the ''Condor trading strategy [that] has been around for hundreds of years and is in all basic trading textbooks''. Clearly it still needs some refinement.