Wall Street rakes it in, again

What financial crisis? Even as unemployment barrels toward 10 percent, bankers are headed for a record year

By Andrew Leonard

Published October 14, 2009 1:45PM (EDT)

Get your class warfare boots on.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports: "Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year -- a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street's pay culture."
  • At Goldman-Sachs, per the WSJ, "Average compensation per employee is on pace to reach about $743,000 this year, double last year's $364,000 and up 12 percent from about $622,000 in 2007 ..."
  • Bloomberg reports: "JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, said third-quarter profit rose almost sevenfold, beating analysts' estimates as fixed-income revenue surged ... Earnings climbed to $3.59 billion, or 82 cents a share, from $527 million, or 9 cents, in the same period a year earlier at the height of the financial crisis, the New York-based company said today in a statement."
  • Also from Bloomberg: "Some of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's closest aides, none of whom faced Senate confirmation, earned millions of dollars a year working for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and other Wall Street firms, according to financial disclosure forms."

A year ago, some economists were telling us that there was good reason to "scoff at the idea that the non-financial sector will collapse because of the recent events on Wall Street."

Those economists were wrong. But the converse, however, does appear to be true: A resurgence on Wall Street doesn't imply a return to health for Main Street. While the rest of us prepare for 10 percent unemployment, happy times are here again for Wall Street.

The Journal also reports that, possibly as soon as this week, "The Obama administration's pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, is expected to issue ... his findings on compensation packages at seven firms receiving federal aid, including Bank of America and Citigroup." I'm sure we'll hear plenty of screaming from Wall Street mouthpieces and Republican politicians about this unwonted interference in the free market. For now, maybe, they should just shut up.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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