Bailed-out firms rename their cash bonuses as ‘retention awards.’

jamesgorman2.jpg The Huffington Post reports that bailed-out financial firms Morgan Stanley and Citigroup’s Smith Barney — which will soon merge — plan to reward their financial advisers with “very generous” cash bonuses. During an internal conference call last week, advisers were warned not to call the awards bonuses because it would cause a PR headache:

There will be a retention award. Please do not call it a bonus,” said James Gorman, co-president of Morgan Stanley. “It is not a bonus. It is an award. And it recognizes the importance of keeping our team in place as we go through this integration.”

Gorman said that the payments would be “based on performance numbers from 2008 instead of 2009,” which “virtually guarantees an increase in the size of the awards.” On the call, Gorman said that the advisers should be “clapping” at the “very generous and thoughtful” announcement. Listen to the audio here.