Will Activist Investor Keep Morgan Stanley Down?


Everyone loves big investors and the money they bring to the table -- until they try to start telling you what to do. In Morgan Stanley's case, one outsize investor in particular is trying to have an outsize say on pay, with potentially detrimental effects to the struggling Wall Street perennial.

I'm just saying
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Daniel Loeb, the infamously activist investor who runs the hedge-fund Third Point LLC, is questioning whether or not the level of executive pay at Morgan Stanley is "justified given the New York company's size and relative simplicity compared with larger banks."

Loeb himself feels justified in bringing such a topic to the table, because Third Point has just taken a substantial stake in the firm. Loeb specifically pointed out directors' compensation as an issue, which is higher than that for the boards of either JPMorgan Chase or Citigroup.

Batter up, Mr. Loeb
According to the Journal, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, whose pay is also under scrutiny, "reached out to Mr. Loeb and welcomed him as a new investor."

Well, what else are you supposed to say when a big-shot investor buys a big-shot stake in the company you run? Maybe, more importantly, what does Loeb's thinking mean for the firm's future potential to attract and keep the kind of talent that keeps a Wall Street bank on top?

Goldman Sachs is, by many measures, one of the most successful banks on Wall Street; it's also one of the highest paying. Loeb has said that he bought into Morgan Stanley because he believes the bank "is in the early innings of a turnaround." But the best teams typically have the best-paid talent. Just look at the New York Yankees.

The Foolish upshot? If Loeb wants Morgan Stanley to not just stay in the game, but to win it, he'd better be ready to pay for the players who can do it for him.

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The article Will Activist Investor Keep Morgan Stanley Down? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor John Grgurich owns share of Goldman Sachs, but don't hold that against him. Follow John's dispatches from the bleeding heart of capitalism on Twitter @TMFGrgurich. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a simply cracking disclosure policy.

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