Lloyd Blankfein is North America's best-paid bank CEO -- and also one of its most overpaid, according to a new report.
The bearded Goldman Sachs chieftain made $26 million last year, a 73 percent pay raise from a year earlier, putting him atop the list of CEOs of the 20 biggest North American banks, according to a report that will be in the July issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine.
That's a lot of calamari! But Blankfein is also the second-most overpaid bank CEO on the magazine's list, after Capital One Financial's Richard Fairbank, who made $17.5 million last year.
The pinpoint accuracy of the "overpaid/underpaid" ranking is up for debate, certainly. Bloomberg Markets judges how over- or underpaid bank CEOs are by comparing their ranking on the pay list to their ranking in returns and profitability. The results are sometimes unclear. For example, there is actually not that much difference between the pay and performance of Capital One's Fairbank and the list's only perfectly paid CEO, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. Dimon, it is worth noting, might have been considered more overpaid had he not taken a 50 percent pay cut to $11.5 million last year because of his bank's embarrassing London Whale losses. Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, who made $12 million, was rated "overpaid" even though his bank returned 110 percent to shareholders last year (though the bank's return on equity was thin).
Some would argue that all of these bank CEOs are overpaid. The saddest banker on the list, M&T Bank's Robert Wilmers, raked in $4 million last year, a significant raise for 99.9 percent of Americans.
The counter-argument is that these bankers deserve their pay because they contribute to society by providing capital to the economy, when they are not fleecing the muppets. Goldman Sachs, in particular, has started awarding its jaw-droppingly huge bonuses based partly on how well bankers protect the firm's reputation, Bloomberg reported recently. Muppet-fleecing is out, muppet-pampering is in.
But even from this non-communist viewpoint, the pay of some of these bankers doesn't always make sense. Blankfein's pay, for example, got the stinkeye earlier this month from shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis, which said Goldman paid its CEO in a random way that "failed to link pay with performance."
Of course, shareholders ignored this advice, just as JPMorgan shareholders ignored Glass Lewis' advice that they strip Dimon of his chairmanship there. As long as the stock prices of these banks are going up -- and they were the best-performing stocks in the market last year, despite wave after wave of scandals -- shareholders are going to be just fine with CEO pay.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the CEO-ranking magazine as Bloomberg Businessweek.