Bumper pay rises for Goldman Sachs bosses as profits slump 38%

• Goldman Sachs' UK chief awarded £9m in free shares
• Chief executive Lloyd Blankfein's pay will rise to $2m this year

Top executives at Goldman Sachs collected a bumper increase in pay and bonuses last year in defiance of public opinion, and despite a 38% slump in the bank's profits.

Michael Sherwood, one of the heads of Goldman's British and European operations is being awarded free shares worth $14.4m (£9m). That represents a 60% increase on the value of the stock award he received in 2009. Goldman does not reveal whether Sherwood is also a recipient of a cash bonus.

Sherwood could sell the shares for more than Friday's market rate if Goldman's financial performance improves by the time the shares vest in 2016, though of course they could be worth less.

Regulatory filings also reveal the bank's chief executive Lloyd Blankfein is in line for an astonishing 233% increase in his basic pay in 2011, which rises from $600,000 to $2m.

Blankfein last year was paid free shares worth nearly $13m, up from $9m in 2009, indicating that City and Wall Street remuneration is rising despite pleas by international regulators and politicians for financiers to show restraint.

In Britain, Stephen Hester, boss of government-controlled RBS, where the taxpayer speaks for 83% of the equity, is under pressure to collect his bonus in shares that do not vest for at least three years; he is being asked to waive rights to any bonus paid in cash. The prime minister and the chancellor have called for an end to banker bashing, but union and opposition politicians, have hit out at the "business as usual" attitude that is returning to the financial sector even though banks such as Goldman received taxpayers' money to prevent them going under in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

In July, US regulators demonstrated their determination to crack down on Wall Street's excesses during the sub-prime mortgage crisis by handing Goldman a fine of $550m, and warning that "half truths and deception" would not be tolerated.

In the humiliating settlement with the securities and exchange commission, Goldman accepted the largest fine in the commission's history. It also accepted that marketing materials it issued to investors in a complex derivatives transaction at the heart of the regulator's case gave "incomplete information".

The commission said at the time that despite the settlement, in which Goldman did not admit or deny the damaging allegations, Fabrice Tourre, the employee who had been involved in marketing the collateralised debt obligation (CDO), remained under investigation.

Emails sent by Tourre had suggested the bank was selling inappropriate mortgage products that it knew were destined to fail.


Richard Wachman

The GuardianTramp

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