Goldman Sachs Group Inc plans to pay top managers their 2009 bonuses in stock, rather than cash, as it seeks to deflect outrage over a near-record pay haul months after it repaid billions of dollars in taxpayer aid.

The decision to pay top managers in stock, which cannot be sold for five years, puts Goldman at the forefront of the push to align Wall Street pay with long-term performance. Still, it is unlikely to affect the firm's total compensation, a figure on pace to top $20 billion this year.

That figure has put Goldman in the crosshairs of an international debate on pay.

It is an intelligent response to the negative publicity coming out of Washington, but it is probably not going to stop the demagogues, said Michael Holland, president of Holland & Co in New York.

The plan announced Thursday applies to its 30-person management committee, an elite group that includes Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein as well as some of the firm's most senior risk takers and managers, including the heads of sales and trading operations.

Those managers will receive all of their discretionary compensation in shares at risk -- stock that must be held for five years. They will also face a stricter clawback provision that allows the company to recoup pay if employees are later found to have engaged in improper risk-taking.

It also leaves room from for some of Goldman's elite performers not on the 30-person management panel to receive outsized cash paydays. Those salaries would not have to be publicly disclosed by the firm.

Goldman has felt the brunt of a public backlash for setting aside nearly $17 billion in the first three quarters of 2009 for year-end compensation, even as the firm earlier this year repaid a $10 billion taxpayer bailout.

Shareholders will have an advisory vote on the firm's compensation plans at the annual shareholder meeting in 2010, Goldman said.

Goldman shares gained on the news. They were up 0.2 percent, or 29 cents, at $166.73 in afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Steve Eder; editing by John Wallace and Matthew Lewis)