Blankfein's Payday: Goldman Sachs CEO Gets Modest $9M Bonus

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Goldman Sachs Group (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein is getting a $9 million stock bonus for 2009, a modest payday by Wall Street standards that appears aimed at quelling criticism of the bank's compensation practices. Blankfein will receive more than 58,000 shares of restricted stock that can't be cashed in for five years, the bank said in a securities filing Friday. Blankfein will receive no cash as part of his bonus.Blankfein's bonus was less than some had expected. But it reflects Wall Street's changing pay culture. Several banks are paying their CEO restricted stock and adopting clawback provisions in response to a furor over outsized paydays at financial institutions that helped push the economy into a recession and then later took billions in federal bailouts.

Still, Blankfein led Goldman to a stellar 2009 performance, and some had predicted his bonus would range between $15-$20 million. "It was certainly less than expected," said Mark Borges, a principal with Compensia Inc., a Northern California compensation consulting firm. "While the fact that he's making this much won't sit well with people out of work, it seems Goldman is being sensitive to the political considerations and optics of this amount. It's almost as if he's taking a bullet for everyone else."

Earlier Friday, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) said CEO Jamie Dimon received a $16 million stock bonus, making him the highest paid CEO among the nation's largest banks that have announced their pay plans. Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James P. Gorman received a stock bonus valued at $8.1 million for 2009. Gorman was co-president of the bank for that period. He replaced John Mack as CEO last month. Mack, who remains chairman, received no bonus for 2009 or the previous two years.

Goldman and JPMorgan have emerged from the financial crisis as two of the nation's strongest banks, earning billions in profits while rivals including Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) have suffered losses. Still, neither JPMorgan nor Goldman have escaped scrutiny over employee pay packages.

Under Blankfein's leadership, Goldman earned a record $4.79 billion profit in the last three months of 2009. But Goldman bolstered its fourth-quarter profits by slashing the size of its bonus pool in a move aimed at quashing criticism of outsized paydays at elite New York investment banks.

Blankfein received compensation valued at $42.9 million during fiscal 2008, virtually all of it coming from stock and options awarded for his previous year's performance.He got no performance-based pay for his work in fiscal 2008, when Goldman reported its first quarterly loss since becoming a public company and its stock fell more than 60 percent amid the deepening credit crisis.

Aside from not being able to sell the stock for five years, Goldman's top 30 executives' stock awards could be taken back by the bank in cases where the employees took too large a risk or failed to raise concerns about risk in the company.

Under JPMorgan's new pay structure, Dimon will be restricted from selling 75 percent of his total accumulated JPMorgan stock until he leaves the company, spokesman Joe Evangelisti said. In addition, JPMorgan's board can recoup the entire 2009 stock bonus under any circumstances, Evangelisti said. JPMorgan received $25 billion in bailout money in the fall of 2008 at the peak of the credit crisis. It paid back that money in the middle of 2009.

Dimon received no bonus for 2008. He received a $27.8 million bonus for 2007, just before the financial crisis began to accelerate. Since then, JPMorgan has solidified its status as one of the nation's top banks. Dimon led the bank to four profitable quarters in 2009, including a $3.28 billion profit in the final three months of the year.

Even as furor over bank bonuses has grown, JPMorgan increased pay for its workers in 2009. The average pay per employee rose to $121,124 in 2009 from $101,110 a year earlier. The average pay in the investment banking division was about $380,000.

Dimon's and Blankfein's stock compensation was disclosed in a securities filing called a Form 4. While those stock-based awards were to reward the CEOs for their work in 2009, those awards will not be included in the calculation of total compensation that the companies will present in their annual proxy statements due out later this year. The pay amounts included in the proxies will only reflect what was granted and paid in the fiscal year 2009.

The stock awards Dimon and Blankfein just received will be included in calculations of their total pay for 2010.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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