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Wall St. Journal

More Evidence Wall Street Pay at Near Record Levels

Shira Ovide

For Wall Street, 2010 may not have been the halcyon days of 2007. But it was still pretty darn good.

Cash bonuses for New York City financial-sector employees reached $20.8 billion in 2010, according to a newly released analysis from the New York comptroller’s office. Still, the bonus levels were about one-third less than in 2007, and down 8% from 2009.

(The record cash bonus year was 2006, when the state official said $34.3 billion in bonuses were paid out to New York financial workers.)

While cash bonuses declined from 2009 to 2010, overall compensation rose 6%, according to the state comptroller, as Wall Street was forced to pay out smaller cash bonuses and more stock-based pay and salaries.

“Cash bonuses are down, but that’s not an indicator of a weakness on Wall Street,” said Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Wall Street is changing its compensation practices in response to regulatory reforms adopted in the aftermath of the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Past practices rewarded short-term gains at the expense of long-term profitability.”

Last year’s profits on Wall Street landed in second place, behind only the lofty perch reached in 2009 with the help of government bailouts, the comptroller found.

The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Wall Street banks and securities firms earlier found total compensation and benefits reached a record $135 billion in 2010, and revenue rose a fraction from the year before to another all-time high.

The comptroller’s office counts a smaller subset of employee compensation: only cash bonuses paid out to financial employees who live and work in New York City.

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