Time, prosperity and short memories could allow Goldman Sachs Group Inc to slowly ratchet up bonuses for its top executives, but analysts believe the days of mega payouts are probably gone for good.
Long Wall Street's top investment bank, Goldman converted to a bank holding company at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, one of several ways in which it benefited from government help without which it might not have survived.
And although Goldman might get away with incremental increases for top managers, Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein has little chance of getting the $67.9 million bonus he made in 2007, analysts said.
Blankfein, CEO since 2006, could have demanded a record bonus to match his firm's 2009 record earnings, but wisely took a relatively modest $8.99 million stock bonus instead in a nod to political pressure for restraint.
The $70 million bonus is probably past us, said Rose Marie Orens of New York-based Compensation Advisory Partners. I think they know that too -- not in a public company.
Goldman, for its part, says it has no magic formula for determining compensation. In 2010, as in past years, it will be determined by performance, competition and the world around us, chief financial officer David Viniar told a conference in Florida on Wednesday.