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Nice Check If You Can Get It

Posted by: Adrienne Carter on April 16

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein doesn’t want to be under the thumb of the government anymore. Given the huge jump in pay at the investment bank, it’s understandable why he’s scrambling to return the federal funds. The $10 billion loan comes with onerous restrictions on compensation and bonuses—two areas where Goldman doesn’t seem to be scrimping and saving.

On Apr. 13 Goldman reported banner profits of $1.8 billion. But you may have missed another eye-popping number buried in the 12-page quarterly earnings announcement: the $4.71 billion in compensation in benefit expenses, an 18% increase over the first quarter of 2008.

Those numbers include a host of stuff like salaries, bonuses, and severances. But you can’t blame big layoffs for that spike. Nope, Goldman says that much of the jump is “due to higher net revenues.” That means the extra money was likely used to hand out huge bonuses to traders, whose work accounted for much of the gains in the period.

Better yet, the average pay per employee increased 25% to $168,000, according to a recent article in the Financial Times. That’s because Goldman laid off more than 4,000 people in the past year. Essentially, there was more money to spread around a smaller staff.

Ironically, the spike comes just days after the Goldman chief slammed the rest of Wall Street for its excessive and greedy pay packages. As a recent item in Deal Journal points out, much of the media lauded Blankfein for his blunt talk, positioning him as “the rare Wall Streeter who actually ‘gets it.’” Of course, this is also the same guy who brought home $68 million in 2008—more than any other investment bank CEO.

Seems Blankfein may not be practicing what he preaches.

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BusinessWeek's Adrienne Carter, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and David Henry deconstruct the mysteries of high finance, Wall Street, and hedge funds for pros and ordinary investors. E-mail them directly if you've got tips about big deals, a hedge fund, or even securities industry gossip.

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