NEW YORK - JPMorgan Chase & Co is lifting a salary freeze it put in place last year, according to an internal memo from human resources director John Donnelly.

The second-largest U.S. bank, which in the summer returned $25 billion it received from the government's bank bailout fund, will also return to matching eligible U.S. employees' 401(k) pension plan contributions, after suspending those payments earlier this year, according to the memo.

The bank froze the salaries of employees earning more than $60,000 last year, as financial markets globally tumbled and the investment bank Lehman Brothers failed.

JPMorgan will pay a $500 special award to employees globally that receive less than $60,000 in total compensation, Donnelly wrote in the memo.

The decision to lift the salary freeze is part of the bank's year-end performance and compensation review process, according to the memo, which was confirmed by a spokesman.

Banks broadly have come under fire for paying large bonuses to bankers even amid the financial crisis and as year-end bonus season approaches, it has again become a hot-button issue.

It is possible that the regulatory rules will change compensation standards and we will, of course, adhere to all regulatory standards, wrote Donnelly in the memo.

We will continue to be committed to being highly competitive and paying for performance, he added. (Reporting by Elinor Comlay, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)