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In conversations with two different sources ‘in the know,’ we’ve learned that Morgan Stanley is asking their largest producers to sign what sound, look, and smell like retention bonuses but are being sold as retirement compensation.

Here is the setup from one of our sources:

“Morgan Stanley is telling advisors/teams above $5M to take a payment of 100% of their current T12 and connecting it to their retirement deal. In other words, take about half of your retirement deal (which is 220%) now and sign this document that you are staying and keeping your business here at Morgan Stanley.”

“You can imagine what the unspoken consequences of not signing that deal look like to management. If you don’t take the cash it signals that you are more inclined to leave the firm than stay. Now you’ve got a target on your back. If you dot and I or cross at wrong you’ll get fired. That’s the intention here. So this isn’t a retirement bonus, but rather a retention scheme.”

We spoke to another source that backed up these claims. All of this is being done in a very quiet, closed doorway with the firm’s largest producers. And Morgan Stanley has set a precedent over the past year that they won’t blink in firing big producers – not just for industry violations, but rather internal firm policy violations.

As, effectively, the biggest firm on the street Morgan Stanley management can make these moves. They can put this kind of pressure on advisors and not worry about the cultural implications. Keeping it ‘niche targeted’ to its top 10% or so of producers makes it seem/feel almost like a perk.

Take a step back and consider the cost. What sounds to good to be true probably is – a financial firm doesn’t give money away for free. Think about it.

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