Goldman Bonuses: “Totally Meh.”

Goldman Sachs
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Goldman Sachs

The beautifully designed new headquarters of Goldman Sachs was full of the sound of grumbling and a few slamming doors yesterday as staff got the news about their annual bonuses.

Bonuses were far lower than last year for many staffers.

The lower bonuses shouldn’t have come as a surprise to many at the firm. It’s been predicted by analysts and telegraphed in quarterly results all year.

But nonetheless, many at the firm were disappointed when they learned the actual numbers, people familiar with the situation at Goldman said.

“Totally meh,” was how one Goldman staffer explained the bonus.

“Goldman has finally come down to earth,” one Goldmanite lamented while tilting back a drink at a downtown bar last night.

“That’s bull----. They’re just crushing us into the ground,” another replied.

“Poor baby. You going to hock your Patek Phillipe?” a third teased. The second banker did not actually own a Patek Phillipe.

The bank set aside $15.4 billion for compensation and benefits, according to recent filings. That’s a 5% decrease from the previous year. The smaller compensation pool is being spread among more employees—headcount has grown by 10%. The overall effect is that the per employee compensation level has fallen 14%.

A shift in the way that Goldman pays employees may have made the situation seem worse. Last year, Goldman paid out bonuses for 2009 while it also announced much higher base salaries for 2010. That made last year’s bonus season seem positively dreamy—especially when compared to the prior year.

But this year, the compensation levels have remained about the same while the bonus levels have fallen. This was always supposed to be the trade-off—higher base salaries and lower bonuses—but this was the first year it really hit Goldman staffers.

“I guess I knew that this was a bug—last year seemed great. Bonuses on the old system, plus the promise of higher salaries. It’s just different when you actually see it,” one staffer said.


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