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Pay on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, The Wall Street Journal said early Tuesday.
About three dozen of the top publicly held securities and investment services companies — which include banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money management companies and securities exchanges — are set to pay $144 billion in compensation and benefits this year.
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That’s up 4% from the $139 billion paid out in 2009, according to a survey the Journal conducted. Compensation is expected to rise at 26 of the 35 companies.
The data show that revenue is expected to rise at 29 of the 35 firms surveyed, though at a slower pace than pay. Wall Street revenue is expected to rise 3%, to $448 billion from $433 billion, despite a slowdown in some high-profile activities like stock and bond trading, the Journal said.
Overall, Wall Street is expected to pay 32.1% of its revenue to employees, the same as last year, but below the 36% in 2007. Profits, which were depressed by losses in the past two years, have bounced back since the 2008 crisis.
But the estimated 2010 profit of $61.3 billion for the companies surveyed still falls about 20% short of the record $82 billion in 2006. Over the same period, compensation across the companies in the survey increased 23%.
“Until focus of these institutions changes from revenue generation to long-term shareholder value, we will see these outrageous pay packages and compensation levels,” said Charles Elson, the director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.
Financial companies told the Journal that it is too early to comment on 2010 compensation levels. Many say that if they don’t adequately compensate employees, they risk losing top talent.
The pay numbers show that companies, benefiting from low interest rates and strong international markets, continue to base their pay on economic and market conditions rather than the level of pressure coming from regulators in Washington and overseas.