For Goldman employees, it is almost as if the financial crisis never happened. Only months after paying back billions of taxpayer dollars, Goldman Sachs is on pace to pay annual bonuses that will rival the record payouts that it made in 2007, at the height of the bubble. In the last nine months, the bank set aside about $16.7 billion for compensation — on track to pay each of its 31,700 employees close to $700,000 this year. Top producers are expecting multimillion-dollar paydays.
The latest tally came Thursday, when Goldman reported another set of robust results. But its strong financial showing — a profit of $3.19 billion in the third quarter — was overshadowed by Goldman’s swelling bonus pool. Goldman set aside nearly half of its revenue to reward its employees, a common practice on Wall Street, even in this post-bailout era.
But despite Goldman’s success or, perhaps, because of it, the bank has come to symbolize for many a return to wanton Wall Street excess. Even in 2008, the most tumultuous year in modern Wall Street history, Goldman employees reaped rewards that most people can only dream about. Goldman paid out $4.82 billion in bonuses last year, awarding 953 employees at least $1 million each and 78 executives $5 million or more. The rewards for 2009 will be far greater.
Goldman executives know they have a public opinion problem, and they are trying to figure out what to do about it — as long as it does not involve actually cutting pay.