Bonuses Rain on Wall Street Bankers in Biggest Payout in Decade

Ten million dollars, $15 million, $25 million, more: Big money is back on Wall Street.

Not since the late 2000s, when lavish bonuses rained down before and after federal bailouts, have pay packages at U.S. investment banks swelled as much as they have right now.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. just finished spending an average of 23% more per employee for the past year -- the biggest jump in more than a decade. And that figure is muted compared with how dramatically bonuses have gone up for dealmakers, with Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman raising them to the tune of 30%, 40% and 50%.

After years of restraint, bank leaders are once again projecting a “whatever it takes” approach to compensation, vowing they won’t be outbid for top performers, lest they lose an edge in a hot market for trading and deals. That has their employees in Manhattan uncorking $2,000 bottles of wine at the fastest pace in years, buying bigger homes in fashionable TriBeCa, and snapping up yachts.

It’s a long-awaited moment for a generation of rising executives who’ve spent years missing out on the riches reaped by those before them.

Take Goldman’s chief executive officer, for example.

When David Solomon was preparing for a congressional hearing after taking over as CEO, his coach posed a question: Would he be game to pay more in taxes if the government spent it wisely on social services? At first, Solomon fumed. The coach explained that JPMorgan’s billionaire leader, Jamie Dimon, had publicly said he’d gladly agree. Solomon's retort: Easy for Dimon to say that, he's already made his money.