Firms cancel parties for 2nd year as US recovery not stable | Shanghai Daily

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December 5, 2009

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Firms cancel parties for 2nd year as US recovery not stable

THE United States may be emerging from recession but some firms are canceling holiday parties for a second year in a row and others are bragging about having fun on the cheap.

With one in 10 US workers unemployed and the prospect of a double-dip recession looming, companies are aiming to balance rewarding their employees for a tough year against avoiding criticism for holding celebrations that are too lavish.

"This is not an environment where anyone, including Wall Street, wants to have big Christmas parties," former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain said. "I think that you will see a much more conservative tone across all the firms.

Everyone is pretty sensitized to the fact that excessive consumption or excessive anything is not acceptable."

For several companies the easiest decision was simply to cancel holiday party plans, some for the second year in a row. American Express Chief Financial Officer Daniel Henry and FBR Capital Markets banking analyst Paul Miller said their firms did not hold a party in 2008 and would not be celebrating this year.

Wall Street's dominant firm, Goldman Sachs, criticized for paying out-sized bonuses to top management soon after taking a US government bailout, also is forgoing a holiday party for a second year, spokeswoman Gia Moron said, despite reporting more than US$3 billion in profits in each of the past two quarters.

The US Treasury's pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, who is in charge of compensation at seven companies who received government bailouts and recently slashed the pay of top earners, said he is not throwing a party for his staff.

Some hotels and restaurants are capitalizing on this year's spendthrift sentiment by offering companies an opportunity to share the costs by holding a party with several other businesses.

Recent surveys show fewer companies are having parties. A poll by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas found 62 percent of companies are planning parties, down from 77 percent a year ago and 90 percent in 2007. One in three companies said they were spending less.

"Departments will have Christmas parties. They will not be excessive Christmas parties by historic standards in any way. But we will have a holiday party," said Lee Fensterstock, CEO of investment bank Broadpoint Gleacher.




 

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