Wall Street this week enters that cash free-for-all known as bonus season with quite the dilemma hanging overhead: How to distribute the billions in record-breaking profits reaped this year without incurring public wrath? Goldman Sachs expects to give out an average of $595,000, the New York Times reports, and the question for some banks is how many digits bonuses will have—six, seven, or even eight?
Some banks, however, appear to be heeding calls for restraint: The percent of profits set aside for bonuses, though still eye-popping, is largely down, and many are awarding more stock than cash in a move to tie execs to long-term results. But the urge to throw cash at performers is still there. “There are legitimate conflicts between the firm feeling like it is performing well and the public’s prevailing view that the Street was bailed out,” says an anonymous exec.