This is a stunning development, as reported by David Prosser of the London Independent:
Up to 10,000 staff at the New York office of the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers will share a bonus pool set aside for them that is worth $2.5bn (£1.4bn), Barclays Bank, which is buying the business, confirmed last night.
The revelation sparked fury among the workers' former colleagues, Lehman's 5,000 staff based in London, who currently have no idea how long they will go on receiving even their basic salaries, let alone any bonus payments. It also prompted a renewed backlash over the compensation culture in global finance, with critics claiming that many bankers receive pay and rewards that bore no relation to the job they had done.
A spokesman for Barclays said the $2.5bn bonus pool in New York had been set aside before Lehman Brothers filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States a week ago. Barclays has agreed that the fund should continue to be ring-fenced now it has taken control of Lehman's US business, a deal agreed by American bankruptcy courts over the weekend.
Barclays is paying $1.75bn for the US operation of Lehman and is keen to retain its best staff. It said it had made no promises to individual staff members about how much they will receive but that the bonus fund would be paid out. In addition to the $2.5bn cash pool, Barclays is also in negotiations with about 30 executives it considers to be Lehman's best assets and plans to offer them contracts worth tens of millions of dollars. British employees of Lehman described the bonus payments as a "scandal" as they waited anxiously yesterday to see whether a deal could be struck with buyers circling the bank's European operations.
Many of Lehman's UK staff are particularly angry about the US payouts because it has emerged that in the days running up to the bankruptcy, some $8bn in cash was transferred out of the account of the bank's European business into accounts at the New York head office.