Bankers on Wall Street and in Europe have struck back against moves by US lawmakers to slap punitive taxes on bonuses paid to high earners at bailed-out institutions.
Senior executives on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday warned of an exodus of talent from some of the biggest names in US finance, saying the “anti-American” measures smacked of “a McCarthy witch-hunt” that would send the country “back to the stone age”.
There were fears that the backlash triggered by AIG’s payment of $165m in bonuses to executives responsible for losses that forced a $170bn taxpayer-funded rescue would have devastating consequences for the largest banks.
“Finance is one of America’s great industries, and they’re destroying it,” said one banker at a firm that has accepted public money. “This happened out of haste and anger over AIG, but we’re not like AIG.”