Critics Impressed by Goldman CEO's Puny $9m Bonus

Well played, Goldman, well played

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Goldman-haters have finally gotten a taste of satisfaction. CEO Lloyd Blankfein's 2009 bonus--bogusly and perhaps strategically rumored to be in the $100 million range--is clocking in at $9 million. This is less than the $70 million he pulled in during 2007, less than the $16 million JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon recently nabbed, and less than just about everyone was expecting.

The reward has been a rare breeze of complimentary press for Goldman Sachs. The bank has done everything in its power--from giving to charity to nixing executive bonuses--to defuse populist ire at its record profits in 2009. Of course, as Felix Salmon points out, Blankfein's pay cut might be less stunning if seen next to Goldman's top-compensated traders.

  • Chastens Traders, says Felix Salmon at Reuters. Salmon, a frequent critic of Goldman's outsized pay schemes, applauds the decision. It sends a message not only to the outside world, but to Goldman traders. "This is a great move by Goldman, not just from an external public-relations perspective, but also from an internal point of view: the small bonus for Blankfein makes it really hard for anybody else in the company to complain that they're being underpaid."
  • Perfectly Sized, writes Michael Corkery at the Wall Street Journal. Corkery calls it a brilliant bit of classic Goldman "jujitsu." The move gives Blankfein a respectable sum, but one significantly smaller than CEOs at less-glamorous banks. "$9 million seems perfectly calibrated: Not large enough to be dubbed a 'double digit' bonus. But not so small as to seem that Blankfein capitulated completely to political pressures."
  • Relatively Puny, writes Paul Murphy at the Financial Times. Compared to rumors of a $100m payday, Murphy dryly notes "It's almost like socialism. Considering."
  • Reflects Wall Street Shift, says Daily Finance. "It reflects Wall Street's changing pay culture. Several banks are paying their CEO restricted stock and adopting clawback provisions...some had predicted his bonus would range between $15-$20 million."
  • But Won't Quell Critics, argues Jon C. Ogg at 24/7 Wall St. Ogg is noticeably less impressed than other business bloggers. This is because he expects Main Street won't see $9 million as a small figure--even with the $100m rumors floating around. "$100 million would have been an outrage," he says. "Most on Main Street will claim that this too is an outrage. After all, Goldman Sachs is the national pinata..."
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