John G. Stumpf, chief executive of Wells Fargo & Co., made more than any banker in America last year — $22.87 million.
Stumpf's pay package, disclosed Thursday, was up 15% from 2011, an increase Wells said reflected the San Francisco-based bank's strong performance. Wells earned $18.9 billion, up 19% from 2011, during a year in which big banks collectively turned in near-record profits.
The runner-up at $21 million — a 75% increase — was Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of New York's Goldman Sachs Group, whose pay has been notably lofty over the years. In 2007, Blankfein's bonus alone was $67.9 million, an example of what critics called extravagant rewards for short-sighted risk-taking — a practice that helped cause the financial crisis.
"If you get it all at once, you don't really care what happens down the line," said Paul Hodgson, an independent governance analyst. He said U.S. bank pay practices have improved since the crisis, but only slightly.
European banks such as UBS, HSBC and Barclays have begun pegging most of their CEO compensation to the banks' performance five years into the future. "And if anything untoward happens during those years, it disappears," Hodgson said.
U.S. banks have also begun awarding more compensation that depends on future performance, Hodgson said, but it's generally a smaller percentage of total compensation than in Europe and is dependent on what happens only three years out.
At Wells Fargo, Stumpf has been less vulnerable to criticism because Wells is the only giant bank without major Wall Street operations.
Wells instead has built a reputation as an enormous community bank, taking deposits and making loans on Main Streets coast to coast. And it took fewer risks making home loans during the housing boom, enabling it to emerge as by far the biggest mortgage lender of the post-crisis era, despite sustaining substantial losses.
Stumpf made $19.84 million in 2011, $18.97 million in 2010 and $21.34 million in 2009 — a record based on the bank's stable growth in the face of the mortgage-related bumps and continuing criticism from advocates for distressed homeowners.
Several dozen protesters interrupted a Stumpf speech to a bankers' conference in San Diego County on Thursday, saying Wells Fargo should do more to prevent foreclosures, given its hefty profits. "Why are you selling my house?" one woman shouted before the group was escorted out.
Carlos Marroquin of Occupy Fights Foreclosures, one of the organizers, said he couldn't believe how much Stumpf was making.
"It is insane," Marroquin said. "The only ones who have not benefited from this crisis are the homeowners."
Wells Fargo issued a statement saying it supports free speech but was "very disappointed" by the disruption of the conference.
"This type of behavior damages efforts for productive dialogue and opportunities to work together to reach solutions," the bank said.
Bank of America, by contrast, has paid dearly for its 2008 acquisition of high-risk lender Countrywide Financial Corp., suffering tens of billions of dollars in losses. Its chief executive, Brian Moynihan, received $12.1 million in 2012 compensation, up 71%, as directors decided he was getting BofA back on track. The company's stock rose 109% for the year.
By contrast, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's compensation was sliced in half, from a pack-leading $23 million in 2011 to $11.5 million in 2012, despite the bank recording a record profit of $21.3 billion. Dimon was whacked by the board over the "London whale" debacle, in which errant derivatives trades cost the bank $6 billion.
Citigroup Inc. CEO Vikram Pandit received $6.7 million during a year that ended early when the board gave him the boot in October. Citi's directors welcomed Pandit's successor, Michael Corbat, with an $11.5-million handshake.
What had Corbat done to deserve the reward?
"Nothing yet," Hodgson said.