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In Britain, the big bonus rises again

Lawmakers and unions press for greater limits on financial institutions as some firms make sizable awards to high flyers.

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It's a bumper year for bonuses at Goldman Sachs. The new boss of Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland is looking at an eight-figure package. And big rewards await traders at Barclays.

No, it's not a news flash from the precrisis years of giddy exuberance and yachts for everyone. From the depths of recession, parts of the financial world are feeling perky again. And that means: The bonus is back.

That's good news if you're a Goldman trader anticipating a six-figure payout on the back of some extraordinary quarterly results. Or if you're Stephen Hester, appointed chief executive of the taxpayer-owned RBS, with a seven-figure share option arrangement.

But there is growing consternation at the sudden reemergence of a bonus culture that arguably encouraged the cavalier attitude toward risk that led to last autumn's withering financial crisis.

Lawmakers have attacked the government for shirking promises to rebuild the financial world along more responsible lines. Unions are furious that, while tens of thousands continue to lose their jobs, those at the top can still expect to find fat pay figures.

"It is very alarming," says Norman Lamb, an opposition Liberal Democrat member of Parliament. "Lessons have not been learned from the dire experience we have been through. We need a shift of culture that rewards long-term progress, not short-term gain."


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