Goldman Sachs Readies Bonus Bonanza, Braces for Backlash

Taking Stock of Some of the Individuals Set to Reap Outsized Pay Packages


Jan. 12, 2010—

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein will be among the chief executives set to appear tomorrow at the first public hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and his firm will be back in the public crosshairs later this month when it announces what is expected to be a $20 billion-plus compensation kitty. Some of Goldman's top traders and bankers stand to earn at least $10 million each.

But who, exactly, are these over-the-top compensation beneficiaries?

With national scorn mounting and the Obama administration reportedly eying a new levy against outsized financial pay, recently spoke with securities industry members and executive recruiters to get a sense of which specific Goldman employees stand to bring home the largest bonus checks.

A Goldman spokesman said "the speculation about compensation is ill-informed and, frankly, pretty stupid."

Here are 10 who most likely are in line to clear at least $10 million:

The Traders

Pierre-Henri Flamand is a French-born 39-year-old who was rumored to have been paid $100 million a few years ago (Goldman denied it). Flamand is the London-based global head of Goldman's purely proprietary trading group, Goldman Sachs Principal Strategies. Goldman CEO Blankfein has said pure prop trading is only 10 percent of the firm's trading revenues and profits.

Ashok Varadhan, one of Goldman's top fixed-income guns, is the global head of foreign exchange trading in North America. Varadhan, who made partner in 2002 at age 29, owns luxury digs in the same New York apartment building as Blankfein. Varadhan's dad, Srinivasa, teaches math at New York University. He had a brother, Gopal, who worked as a trader for Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

David Heller joined Goldman in Asia in the late 1980s. He has risen within the firm, becoming the head of global equity a few years ago. Last year, he was named co-head of the Securities Division. Goldman's equities division delivered $2.8 billion in revenues in the third quarter alone. "Heller is possibly the one person other than Gary [Cohn, Goldman's president] who could someday succeed Blankfein," said one Wall Street headhunter.

Ed Eisler is head of interest rate trading, which is part of Goldman's most profitable division, Fixed Income Commodities and Currency. The FICC group contributed the lion's share of the firm's $24 billion in trading revenues recorded through the first nine months of the year.

The Money Managers

Raanan Agus, 41-year-old manager of Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, a $7 billion hedge fund created at the start of 2008. Agus, a world-class chess enthusiast who is known to prefer Honda minivans to Hummers, runs the GSIP fund within Goldman's asset management division, which has nearly $1 trillion under management. Through the first half of the year, Agus' GSIP, which had a rocky 2008, was said to have had gains of around 6 percent.

Marc Spilker, who helps run Goldman's entire massive investment management business, recently made the kind of headlines his bosses hate. He got into a vitriolic public dispute with his East Hampton neighbor, hedge fund heavyweight Jim Chanos, over a shared pathway to the beach near their homes. Spilker's area produces nearly $1 billion in revenues each quarter.

The Salespeople

Harvey Schwartz, Goldman's head of global sales and a co-head of the firm's securities division. "People don't realize how much sales drives Goldman's business," said one Wall Street headhunter. "Harvey is always among the firm's best paid people."

Isabelle Ealet, London-based global head of commodities and who runs the sales team for this hugely successful trading operation. She ranks No. 32 on Fortune magazine's list of the most powerful women in business.

The Bankers

Gordon Dyal, global head of mergers and acquisitions. According to Deallogic, Goldman ranked No.1 in global M&A transactions through the first three-quarters of the year. Its investment banking division had produced $3.2 billion in net revenue. In one of the biggest fee-generating deals of the year, Goldman advised Burlington Northern Santa Fe when the railroad was bought out for $44 billion by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

Richard Friedman, 51-year-old head of Goldman's merchant banking division. A few years ago he helped pull off the historic initial public offering of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Goldman has maintained a modest investment stake in ICBC, which continues to produce eye-popping returns -- ICBC shares yielded Goldman $1.1 billion worth of revenue through the first nine months of 2009.

Compensation Policy Change

Goldman, which was among a slew of banks that took TARP funds last year during the thick of the financial crisis, has come under attack for its reported compensation kitty --which is expected to exceed $20 billion.

Recently, the Security Police and Fire Professionals of America Retirement Fund filed a shareholder lawsuit against Goldman, naming Blankfein and other executives as defendants. The suit is seeking to recover billions of dollars in bonus money the institutional investor claims is being paid out improperly. Goldman has said the suit is without merit.

Goldman released a statement last week saying it had decided to make changes to its compensation practices. The firm has been deluged by criticism that it made billions on the back of the American taxpayer. While Goldman has paid back TARP money it took, it has also benefited from billions in bonds that it issued. The bonds were backed by the FDIC.

Goldman is also said to have benefited indirectly from government billions paid to the failed insurance giant AIG -- funds that AIG used to repay loans to Goldman. Critics say Goldman has also been allowed to take advantage of the Federal Reserve's discount window, where assets that are deemed dicey can be used as collateral to borrow cash cheaply.

The firm's 30-person management committee won't receive a cash bonus for 2009. Instead, the members will be paid entirely in shares of Goldman stock. This group includes Blankfein, Cohn, Viniar, Dyal, Ealet, Eisler, Friedman, Heller, Schwartz and Spilker (see above). It also includes John Weinberg, J. Michael Evans, Michael Sherwood, Kevin Kennedy, Timothy O'Neill, Gregory Palm, Masanori Mochida, Christopher Cole, Esta Stecher, Edward Forst, Richard Gnodde, Richard Ruzika, Yoel Zaoui, David Solomon, Edith Cooper, Gwen Libstag, John Rogers, Pablo Salame, Donald Mullen and Alan Cohen.