Goldman Sachs, the country's most-loathed financial institution, blew away analysts' estimates this morning when it announced net earnings of $4.95 billion in the fourth quarter, bringing their overall haul for 2009 to $13.39 billion. In a press release, the company somewhat pointedly noted that their spectacular performance was not because of, but in fact despite, their participation in the government's TARP program, on which they took a loss — or, as they put it, the taxpayer managed to make a tidy profit when the company exited the program:
"Taxpayers received this $1.42 billion in addition to the $10 billion repurchase of the preferred stock, representing an annualized return on their investment in the firm of approximately 23%."
They also attempted to gird their loins against the inevitable criticism of their gigantic pay packages by highlighting the company's new charitable initiatives and stressing that compensation had been ratcheted down from 48 percent of new revenues to 35.8 percent, apparently the "lowest annual ratio of compensation and benefits to net revenues" the firm has experienced, ever. Putting these two things together might have been a mistake, however, as the ratio of money the firm has set aside for compensation ($16.19 billion for the year) looks even more freakishly large next to the amount they have earmarked for charity ($1.5 billion).