Red Meat for Compensation Bulls

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With key government dictates on bankers' compensation looming this month, The Wall Street Journal stepped forward Wednesday with its own numbers it says show Wall Street employees this year are being paid more than 2007's record take.

Examining revenue and compensation trends for 23 of the largest publicly traded companies involved in the financial markets, the Journal projects workers at those institutions are on track to receive a record high of "about $140 billion" this year. That represents a 20 percent jump from last year's total for those same firms, and exceeds the $130 billion figure for 2007. This year's average compensation per employee is estimated at $143,000, up almost $2,000 compared with 2007.

The Journal's story will be seen as juicy raw meat by a resentful public and political establishment. To drive home the populist point, the paper remarks that its headline $140 billion figure "shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street's pay culture."

The compensation rebound follows a rebound in revenue to "precrisis levels," fueled by "a stronger stock market, thawing credit market, a resurgence in deal making and the continuing effects of various government aid programs."

Institutions included in the WSJ analysis include J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, Franklin Resources, Charles Schwab, Ameritrade, CME Group and NYSE Euronext. The firms' total revenues are projected at $437 billion - up some 30 percent from 2007's $345 billion.

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