Industry Set Pay Record in 2009 While CEOs Bit the Bullet

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Wall Street's total pay package set a record in 2009, despite reductions for many chief executives.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Leading firms paid out $140 billion in compensation and benefits, the highest number in history, based on a final tally of the pay disclosures at 38 financial-services firms. That figure, which was projected earlier by The Wall Street Journal, represented an increase from $123 billion earned by financial professionals in 2008 and $137 billion in 2007.

Competition among employers is pushing up compensation further this year, at least for revenue-generating traders and bankers. Morgan Stanley recently lost a trader who was paid $11 million last year to a hedge fund that offered still more money, according to John Mack, Morgan Stanley's chairman and former chief executive. On the other side of the coin, employers recently offered $5 million to $10 million to "several" traders to dissuade them from jumping to a rival, Options Group Managing Partner Michael Karp told the Journal.

Those pay hikes contrast with the trend for chief executives, who are under the microscope in Congress and the media. CEOs of the 18 companies with 2009 proxy statements on file took in a combined $110 million, which is about 30 percent less than the $160 million they earned for 2008.

The squeeze on CEOs has everything to do with their visibility - along with the fact they can afford to skip a bonus (or three, as did Mack). Other CEOs who took no bonus for 2009 include Vikram Pandit of Citigroup, John Varley of Barclays PLC and Stephen Hester of RBS.

(However, Hay Group's separate tally of CEO compensation at 24 financial services companies including regional banks, insurers and credit-card companies showed a 9 percent rise from 2008 to 2009.)

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