Golden Days at Goldman Sachs

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Goldman Sachs has given its employees overall -- not just partners -- $7.3 billion in equity ($3.5 billion in options plus 3.8 billion in stock), a thank-you that has appreciated 267 percent since first having been bestowed in 2008.

Among Goldman's competitors, the next most generous, JPMorgan Chase, summoned up only $6.4 billion. After that, the ground all but falls away to Bank of America, which gave only $1.8 billion.

Total compensation for last year to Goldman's 35,000 employees is expected to reach $17.5 billion, up more than $1 billion from 2009 (but well below 2007's record of $20.19).

The rise in Goldman's stock has, of course, enriched many more than just the company's employees and partners. Anyone fortunate enough to own Goldman shares has done well. Since 1999, when the firm went public, these have returned nearly 175 percent. (The S&P 500, meantime, lost nearly 2.9 percent.)

As the sweetness of becoming a Goldman partner has increased, so, too, have the odds against it.

In 2006, the odds of a man (and yes, the group is preponderantly male) becoming partner were 1 in 230. In 2010, 1 in 322.

Even those who grab the ring don't get to hold on for very long: Of all the partners who were in the saddle at the time of the IPO, almost 60 percent were gone in five years.

About seven years is a partner's average tenure. Alumni include U.S. Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson and Robert Rubin, Federal Reserve Bank of New York president William Dudley, and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

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