A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 25, 2010
Doughnut (zero bonus)

A donut and a bagel have been used in the sports world to represent the number “zero,” for no score. The doughnut and the bagel and the number zero all have a hole.

A “doughnut” in the financial world is when a worker receives no annual bonus, just a “zero” or “doughnut.” The term “doughnut” or “doughnut bonus” for a “zero bonus” has been cited in print since at least 2006 and appears to have been first used in London.


(Historical Dictionary of American Slang)
doughnut n.
Sports. a zero. Cf. BAGEL.
1979 Frommer Sports Lingo 174.

Times (London)
February 13, 2006
BNP staff choke on ‘doughnut’ bonuses
By Liz Chong
CITY headhunters claim to have been bombarded with job inquiries by staff of BNP Paribas, the French investment bank, after many of its employees in London and New York were awarded much smaller annual bonuses than they had been given to expect.

Their dissatisfaction reflects a growing change in banks’ attitudes to paying traders. Some BNP staff are understood to have received “doughnuts”, a derisory term meaning no bonus at all.

Here Is The City (London)
2006 Bonuses - More Staff Should Expect ‘Doughnuts’
last updated: 19 October 2006
As we approach year-end, staff in investment banking and fund management are licking their lips at the prospect of bigger bonus payouts this year. And for some, this will be the case. Others, however, will not get much of an uplift on last year, despite the fact that this year has generally been a very good one for the industry. And those who haven’t performed well in 2006 can probably expect a ‘doughnut’ (or ‘donut’ as they say in the US) bonus for their troubles.
As we know, a ‘doughnut’ bonus is the visual equivalent to an onomatopoeic word - a big fat zero.

Nicube.com Forum
ukpooky
22:31, 28th August 2007
BigL please could you list your sources because I think you are talking rubbish!  There were indeed some people who got doughnuts (zero bonuses) last year but only a very small proportion, I know people who got nice bonusses there!

Here Is The City (London)
2007 Bonuses In The Toilet
last updated: 8 October 2007
(...)
Once again, there is likely to be large differentials between staff this bonus time, as firms ensure that good performers and those working in strategic businesses (commodities and emerging markets) are well taken care of. There are also likely to be more staff who receive ‘doughnut’ (zero) bonuses this year.

Evening Standard (London)
America poised for rate cut to head off recession
Hugo Duncan, Evening Standard
11 Dec 2007
(...)
Some banks are expected to avoid job cuts by awarding bankers zero bonuses - “doughnuts” - to encourage employees to quit.

Telegraph (London)
Financial crisis: The Z to A of the year the world turned upside down
Have this year’s horror stories left you lost for words? Alistair Osborne and Jonathan Sibun reveal their lexicon of a turbulent 12 months.

Last Updated: 10:31AM GMT 29 Dec 2008
(...)
Thousands of jobs were scythed as banks jettisoned staff while the lucky ones were handed doughnuts - City slang for zero bonuses.

Financial News
Doughnuts at Morgan Stanley?
Maryam Omidi
18 Nov 2010
While media reports this week have said many bulge-bracket banks will be shrinking bonuses (but boosting base salaries), some employees’ bonus pots at one Wall Street firm will allegedly be filled with nothing but cobwebs.
(...)
“There’s a lot of disappointment at Morgan Stanley with some of the hires that were made,” alleged the headhunter. “Some people are going to get zero bonuses in the hope that they clear out and make way for upgrading in 2011.” (Fact: Zero bonuses are often nicknamed ‘doughnuts").

Business Insider
These Are The 10 Banks Most Likely To Give Out Bonus “Doughnuts” This Year
Katya Wachtel | Nov. 22, 2010, 12:15 PM
Here is the City has an interesting calculation of which financial firms are most likely to give out the worst bonuses this year - a bonus of nothing, zero.

They say that everyone calls the nightmare scenario getting a “doughnut bonus,” and they’ve predicted that a huge number of firms will be giving them out.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Saturday, December 25, 2010 • Permalink