Goldman's $20B paycheck bonanza

Wall Street firm's '07 compensation pot surges to $20.2 billion - up 23% over last year and more than double that of rival Lehman Brothers.

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By David Ellis and Grace Wong, CNNMoney.com staff writers

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- So marks another banner year for Goldman Sachs employees.

The venerated Wall Street bank spent $20.2 billion this year on employee salaries and bonuses, up 23 percent from $16.4 billion last year, the company said when it reported strong fourth-quarter results Tuesday.

If that were to be handed out evenly among the 30,522 employees of Goldman (GS, Fortune 500), that would come to about $661,400 a person. Last year, that figure came to just $621,906.

By comparison, Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500), which reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit last week, set aside $9.5 billion for 2007 compensation, up about 10 percent from last year. Given Lehman's 28,556 employees, that would come to a payout of about $332,600 per head.

To be sure, the riches won't be spread equally across each Wall Street firm. The biggest chunks of cash are expected to go to top performers and executives like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

News reports have pegged Blankfein's payout this year at about $70 million, besting the $54 million he was awarded in 2006, which was a record for a Wall Street CEO.

A Goldman spokeswoman denied those reports and said the company's board is meeting later this week to set Blankfein's bonus.

While Blankfein is expected to take home a bumper bonus this year, his payout still pales in comparison to that of top-earning hedge fund managers, some of whom earned in excess of $1 billion last year.

This year is expected to be a difficult one for many bankers and traders, given the recent market turmoil and the ongoing credit crisis. Overall, financial firms are expected to cut bonuses up to 10 percent from a year ago, according to industry projections.

But unlike some of its rivals, which have seen their stock hammered and billions of dollars evaporate from their balance sheets, Goldman Sachs has proven to be unshakable.

The company's net income for the fourth quarter ended Nov. 24 rose 2 percent to $3.22 billion, or $7.01 a share, easily topping analysts' estimates. For fiscal 2007, Goldman posted record revenue and earnings. To top of page

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