It didn't take long: After a year of public apologies and vows to change, big pay packages are back on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs is set to pay about $700,000 per employee in 2009 based on current figures, nearly double last year's figure and even higher than before the crash. "I'm seeing deals like it's 2007 again," one employment lawyer told the Wall Street Journal.
The most lucrative pay is for traders in improving markets, such as junk bonds, while compensation and even job stability remain low in sclerotic markets like asset-backed securities. Such high pay is dependent on continued market resilience; if a new crisis arises, the banks may hold back on compensation. "If the fourth quarter is significantly down, I would expect bonuses not to recover too much from 2008 levels," said a Wall Street headhunter.