"BOSTON (MarketWatch) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc., a prime target of the backlash after the financial bailout, on Thursday said it cut a key compensation benchmark to the lowest level in its history as it tries to soften criticism over fat bonuses.
In its fourth-quarter earnings news release Thursday, Goldman /quotes/comstock/13*!gs/quotes/nls/gs (GS 166.03, -1.76, -1.05%) said compensation-and-benefits expenses were $16.19 billion in 2009, or 35.8% of net revenue.
The percentage fell from 48% in 2008, Goldman said.
The Wall Street firm, which has faced public anger about its recording big profit after accepting bailout funds, said total compensation and benefits have decreased by $4 billion, or 20%, since 2007.
In the fourth quarter, compensation was reduced by $500 million to fund a charitable contribution, Goldman said Thursday."