U.S. companies celebrating holiday on the cheap

Fri Dec 4, 2009 1:09pm EST
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By Clare Baldwin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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 U.S. 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," he said.

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 preparing to pay at least $16 billion in pay and bonuses to employees after taking a taxpayer bailout, also is forgoing a holiday party for a second year, spokeswoman Gia Moron said.

Goldman Sachs has paid back the government bailout and has reported more than $3 billion in profits in each of the past two quarters.   Continued...

<p>A cracked Christmas ornament with the New York Stock Exchange logo hangs from the Stock Exchange's official Christmas tree on Broad street outside the New York Stock Exchange December 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>