Wall Street’s Top Firms to Award $145B in Bonuses for 2009

Wall Street apparently refuses to learn anything from the crisis.

With many Americans still hurting from the financial collapse and ensuing recession ; major U.S. banks and securities firms are preparing to pay out bonuses that rival those of the boom years. According to a report published Thursday in the WSJ, Wall Street’s top firms are on pace to pay employees a record $145 billion for 2009.

The Journal reported that based on its analysis — which includes banking giants J.P. Morgan (JPM), Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C), securities firms such as Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS), and exchange operators CME Group Inc. (CME) and NYSE Euronext Inc. (NYX) — executives, traders and money managers at 38 top financial firms can expect to earn nearly 18% more than they did last year, and slightly more than they did in the record year of 2007.

Total compensation and benefits are on track to hit $145.85 billion in 2009, an increase 18% from 2008’s $123.4 billion, and 6% from 2007’s $137.23 billion payout. This year, employees at the companies will earn an estimated $149,192 on average, up almost $3,000 from 2007 levels. Meanwhile, senior banking executives and top Wall Street producers expect to reap millions.

Industry veterans worry these numbers will probably stun Americans and  could further tarnish the financial industry’s reputation. Unfortunately, Wall Street’s reputation right now is perceived by many as nothing more than an elaborate counterfeiting operation.

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