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Bonus Furor Hits Banking Chiefs’ Pay

The average pay of top bankers in the US and Europe fell by nearly 60 per cent in 2009 amid a furor over bonuses, according to data compiled for the Financial Times.

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An analysis of the total pay awarded to 17 bank chief executives reveals that some of the steepest falls were recorded by the industry’s leading figures including Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs, Barclays’ John Varley and Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase.

Across the banks surveyed, average chief executive pay dropped to $6m in 2009, down from nearly $14m in 2008, according to the analysis by Equilar, the pay research firm.

Bankers’ bonuses triggered a political firestorm last year on both sides of the Atlantic as the institutions that emerged from the financial crisis began posting big profits in an apparent return to “business as usual”.

Efforts by Mr. Blankfein and other industry figures to show restraint and take big pay cuts has failed to quell outrage as the global economy continues to splutter.

Regulators, meanwhile, have rushed to put in place unprecedented limits on pay.

Not every bank chief executive took a pay cut last year.

Brady Dougan, at Credit Suisse , and Josef Ackermann, at Deutsche Bank , both saw their total pay rise by more than 550 per cent to $18m and $13m, respectively.

Another winner was Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland.

He earned more than $10 million in 2009, according to the Equilar data, for running a group that is 84% owned by the UK taxpayer.

While much of that sum was awarded in the form of stock options tied to the long-term performance of RBS’s share price, his pay package is likely to be scrutinised by UK politicians as the end of the year approaches.