Executive compensation on Wall Street has been quite a controversial topic lately. Most of the major Wall Street financial institutions have received taxpayer money to help bail them out of the financial crisis. Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) , Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) , and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) have paid the money back, and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) has a plan to do so. But that still leaves Citigroup (NYSE: C ) and AIG (NYSE: AIG ) with money to repay, among others -- and regardless, the repayments haven't silenced Main Street criticism regarding employee (mainly executive) compensation.
Goldman Sachs in particular recently took heat after announcing that it had set aside close to $17 billion, or roughly half its net revenue, for employee compensation. Back in October, Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis was pressured into returning $1 million of his salary and forgoing the rest of his $1.5 million salary for 2009.
The big question currently occupying Wall Street: how much Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein deserves to receive. This is of particular interest because compensation for the head of the industry's top firm will set a new benchmark. According to a recent Fortune article, based on Goldman's expected net income this year, he would be in line for a payment of around $64 million, or just shy of the $68 million he received in 2007. You could argue that Blankfein deserves to be rewarded handsomely for managing the firm through the worst crisis in decades, and putting it on course to earn record profits. However, Goldman certainly would have fared much worse without the government’s intervention.
Finally, as the article explains, Blankfein's pay will be even more of a yardstick for the industry, because the leadership turnover at rival firms actually gives him some seniority among the CEO crowd, even after just three years on the job. It would certainly be difficult for other companies to justify paying their chiefs more.
What do you think? Does Blankfein -- or any Wall Street CEO, for that matter -- deserve tens of millions in compensation? Let us know in the comments box below.