Blankfein Joins Bank CEOs Avoiding Pay Crunch for Traders

Wall Street chief executive officers including Lloyd C. Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are avoiding a squeeze on pay that helped their firms lower costs in 2013.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley shrank pay pools for their traders and bankers by more than 2 percent last year. For those firms’ leaders, the story was different: Goldman Sachs boosted Blankfein’s bonus 11 percent, while JPMorgan increased Dimon’s 85 percent. At Morgan Stanley, James Gorman’s equity award almost doubled.

The largest Wall Street banks set aside a smaller portion of revenue for employee pay to cut costs amid sluggish investment-banking and trading revenue. Shares of the three firms each jumped last year as an improving U.S. economy sent the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a record high.

“Given how compensation has fallen on Wall Street, it’s potentially viewable as a disconnect,” said Richard Lipstein, managing director of New York-based search firm Gilbert Tweed International. Still, “you can make a justification that they earned their compensation when you look at the stock performance.”

Morgan Stanley surged 64 percent last year and Goldman Sachs climbed 39 percent. JPMorgan matched the 33 percent advance in the 81-company Standard and Poor’s 500 Financials Index. Spokesmen for the three New York-based banks declined to comment on raises for their CEOs.

Highest Paid

Blankfein, the highest-paid head of a U.S. bank for 2012, saw his bonus climb to $21 million for his work last year from $19 million previously.

Goldman Sachs awarded Blankfein, who also serves as chairman, restricted stock valued at $14.7 million, according to a regulatory filing yesterday. He also got a cash award amounting to the typical 30 percent of his total bonus, a person with knowledge of the payout said. On that basis, the cash portion of his bonus would be about $6.3 million.

Blankfein, who gets a $2 million salary, has also received a long-term incentive award each of the last three years. If his latest package includes one, it would be disclosed later this year.

JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, boosted Chairman and CEO Dimon’s total pay 74 percent to $20 million, including $18.5 million in restricted stock. Morgan Stanley, the sixth-largest U.S. bank by assets, paid Chairman and CEO Gorman $5.1 million in stock for 2013, almost double his $2.63 million award a year earlier. The firm hasn’t yet disclosed his cash bonus and long-term incentives.

Traders’ Raises

While average compensation per employee fell at each of the banks, individual awards vary with performance. Pay for high-performing traders rose 5 percent to 10 percent on average, said Paul Sorbera, president of Alliance Consulting, a New York-based search firm.

Banks are creating a tighter link between pay and performance for their employees, and executives’ increases reflect stronger results, said Frank Glassner, CEO of Veritas Executive Compensation Consultants. Blankfein’s raise is in line with the firm’s increase in profit, and Dimon’s award brings him closer to his pay levels in 2010 and 2011, he said.

“Retention of these individuals and succession are really key, especially as these banks start to emerge from these stormy times and get into more consistent performance,” Glassner said. “The discipline for shareholders is not to focus on the raw numbers, but better to focus on a strategy of pay for performance.”

Dimon Credited

When granting Dimon’s raise, JPMorgan’s board cited “sustained long-term performance,” gains in market share and customer satisfaction, and steps he has taken to resolve regulatory matters. Pay for Dimon, 57, had been cut in half a year earlier after the board faulted his oversight of botched derivatives bets. Since then, he agreed to $23 billion in legal settlements, snapping three straight years of record profits.

Morgan Stanley increased the equity award for Gorman, 55, after he completed the acquisition of the firm’s brokerage unit and boosted margins in that division. He was the lowest-paid CEO among the six largest U.S. banks for 2012.

Blankfein, 59, topped Dimon’s pay for a second consecutive year after Goldman Sachs posted an 11 percent return on equity, exceeding the profitability of its largest Wall Street rivals. Wells Fargo & Co., where CEO John Stumpf was second to Blankfein on 2012 pay and which earned a 14 percent return on equity, hasn’t yet reported his latest compensation package.

Goldman Sachs Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz, 49, and President Gary D. Cohn, 53, each received restricted shares worth about $13.4 million, according to separate filings yesterday. That represented increases of 12 percent and 26 percent over their 2012 equity awards, respectively.

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