Once again, a bonus at Goldman Sachs has all of Wall Street talking — only this time, over how small it is.
After weeks of intense speculation, Goldman Sachs disclosed late Friday that its chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, would receive an annual bonus valued at $9 million, a figure that, to the surprise of many, put him in the middle of the pay scale for the nation’s banking chiefs.
While most people can only dream of such a reward, the news was widely seen on Wall Street as a show of restraint and a nod to the uproar in Washington and elsewhere over resurgent pay and profits at banks like Goldman. Indeed, the award represents a fraction of the record $68 million bonus that Mr. Blankfein received in 2007, when Goldman made less money than it did last year. In 2008, in the midst of the financial collapse, he collected no bonus.
Mr. Blankfein received no cash bonus. The award is entirely in the form of deferred stock, which he cannot sell for five years.
Many on Wall Street had been anxiously awaiting the figure, amid talk that the bonus might be anything from nothing to $100 million.
“It takes a lot of the oxygen out of the argument that Goldman’s top of the house is overpaid,” said Brian Foley, an independent compensation consultant in White Plains. “For running an organization that big, and bringing it through the way he did, nine million is not a lot of money.”
Goldman made a series of political and business calculations in tallying Mr. Blankfein’s rewards. The timing, too, seemed deft: hours earlier, JPMorgan Chase had announced that its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, would receive a $16.6 million bonus and $1 million in salary. For once, Goldman, known for its big paydays, had grabbed the high ground by paying its chief executive less money. At the top, John G. Stumpf, chief of Wells Fargo , was paid $18.4 million in cash and stock for 2009 though he runs a less complex company. Vikram S. Pandit of Citigroup vowed to accept only $1 in salary until the bank is profitable.
For Mr. Blankfein, the news arrived on Friday afternoon, after a tumultuous day of trading on Wall Street. While Mr. Blankfein’s bonus had been the subject of internal debate for weeks, the final decision came quickly.
On Thursday, the compensation committee of Goldman’s 10-member board of independent nonexecutive directors called a meeting for Friday afternoon. Some of the directors convened at Goldman’s headquarters at 85 Broad Street, in Lower Manhattan, while others joined in by telephone. Before the close of trading at 4 p.m., the decision was final. Less than an hour later, Goldman disclosed the figure in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Mr. Blankfein, whom the firm insisted was not privy to the discussions, had been traveling in the Middle East and returned to New York only this week.
Lucas van Praag, a spokesman for Goldman, insisted that the timing and size of the award was unrelated to Mr. Dimon’s announcement, and he would not say how the directors had arrived at the bonus figure, other than to say: “It’s a reflection of the times. Notwithstanding that there has been some extremely ill-informed speculation and a great deal of unpleasantness, we have shown respect for the environment.”
A person close to the board, however, said that in their discussion the directors had agreed they needed to send a strong statement that the firm understood the mood of Washington and the public.
On top of the bonus, Mr. Blankfein will receive a $600,000 cash salary, the same as in previous years, and other perks like a company car and driver.
The current award must, however, be put in the context of his past compensation — in 2006 he received $53.4 million, and the firm said that since 2000 he has received $181.5 million in total salary and bonus, though he has cashed out only part of it.
Goldman Sachs also announced the bonus awards for four other senior executives, including Gary D. Cohn, the firm’s president and chief operating officer, and David A. Viniar, the chief finance officer. All received stock valued at $9 million.
In December, Goldman announced that its top executives, including Mr. Blankfein, would forgo cash bonuses. Instead, the executives would be paid in the form of special stock — an arrangement that could still turn out to be enormously lucrative if Goldman’s share price rises.
Many other big banks had disclosed the compensation of their top executives in recent weeks, but Goldman had appeared to delay its announcement, leading to intense speculation about what the firm would do.
Many on Wall Street thought Goldman was waiting for a good public relations moment to release the news — and calculating what figure the public mood could tolerate.
Some analysts suggested that Goldman’s — and Wall Street’s — show of restraint would be fleeting, and the banks would quickly return to its ways.
“I am still waiting for one of the banks to come forward with a long-term performance-related incentive plan,” said Paul Hodgson, a senior compensation analyst at the Corporate Library, a corporate governance research firm. “They are just making everybody wait for the pay.”
Michael J. de la Merced contributed reporting.