Citibank's recent announcement at the SEC filing that its CEO will get an annual base salary of $1.75 million in 2011 - up from Pandit's self-imposed $1 in the face of the hit that the Bank took during the crisis - has once again turned the spotlight on the controversial issue of executive pay on America's top firms, especially those operating on Wall Street.

At the height of the financial crisis, there was widespread outrage against firms in the financial industry which were seen as the greedy villains who pushed the economy to the brink even as their top personnel amassed humongous bonus packages. Among the regulation and reforms that followed, The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 made it mandatory for companies to disclose details of executive compensation and even gave shareholders a right to vote on the same. Now as the season of proxy filings comes up, a lot of public and media attention is once more riveted on the issue of executive bonus and salaries. Based on filings with the SEC, a Bloomberg report says that the four major bankers will spend a combined $84.4 billion in employees' pay for 2010.

Reports so far suggest that while total amounts paid in employee compensation and bonuses in 2010 were lower than in the preceding year, awards made to top executives are northward bound in many firms, as at Citi.

At JP Morgan Chase and Co., Investment -banking chief Jes Staley and asset-management head Mary Erdoes, have seen quite a jump in their equity awards, close to 50%, according to a Friday filing with the SEC. Staley received restricted stock units worth $8.1 million together with 230,770 stock-appreciation rights. Erdoes received 155,809 restricted stock units valued at $6.9 million, and 230,770 in stock-appreciation rights. Other executives in Chairman and CEO James Dimon's operating committee have also got raises of 10% in equity. However, the CEO's pay was not revealed.

Goldman Sachs, while reporting that it has paid out $15.38 billion in salaries, discretionary compensation, amortization of equity awards, and other items such as benefits - which is lower than what it paid in 2009 - has not reported compensation for its chief Lloyd Blankfein.

It's not just Wall Street firms that are reporting the beginning of the journey back to golden pay days of yore. Media conglomerate Viacom reported a doubling of compensation for its top bosses. Philippe P Dauman, CEO has received a total pay of $84.5 million for 2010, more than twice what he received in 2009, in salary, bonus and stock options. Its COO Thomas Dooley has also been awarded $64.7 million for the year. However, Viacom clarified that the compensation for both would actually be lower than what they received in 2009 were it not for one-time stock awards linked to long-term contracts that the executives signed last year.

Chipmaker Qualcomm has also given its CEO Paul Jacobs a modest 1% raise in 2010, awarding a compensation package comprising $1.1 million in salary, $3.4 million in cash incentive pay and stock and options worth $12.4 million on the day of the award.

Meanwhile, financial services firm Morgan Stanley has informed that its chief executive James Gorman will receive $7.4m in restricted stock and options for his first year in the position. With a jump in profits by a massive 88 percent in the fourth quarter, Morgan Stanley had announced that it would be deferring 60 percent of its employees' bonus earnings. Thus Mr. Gorman would be earning 80% of his total pay in deferred forms such as stocks, options and cash which could be clawed back later. While the CEO's total pay has not yet been disclosed, sources close to the firm have been reported in WSJ as having said that it will be less than the $15 million worth of salary and bonus that he received in 2009. The firm has also reported a cut in the overall compensation pool of its investment banking business by 2 percent last year to $7.08 billion.