Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on track to pay employees about $140 billion in total compensation and benefits this year, the Wall Street Journal said, citing an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through the end of the year.

The paper said employees at 23 top U.S. investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges were likely to earn about 20 percent more than they did last year.

The firms paid $117 billion in compensation and benefits last year, down from the $130 billion paid in 2007, the paper said.

Massive losses inflicted by risky subprime mortgage bets destroyed some of the oldest names in U.S. finance and intensified a recession that has cost millions of jobs, putting both the banks and the regulators under scrutiny.

(Reporting by Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)