Last year, in the midst of a brutal recession, about three dozen of the top publicly held securities and investment-services firms—which includes banks, hedge funds, securities exchanges and more—paid out $139 billion in compensation and benefits, ignoring the public outcry over exorbitant pay packages shortly after many of these same firms were recipients of federal bailout dollars. Those same Wall Street firms are sticking to their guns this year, setting another record in compensation by paying $144 billion, a 4% increase from 2009. Even as profits at these companies have dropped off from record highs in 2006, compensation has continued to increase in each of the years since. While Congress and the Obama Administration continue to push for financial reform, investment firms continue to act as if they are immune to the political pressure, basing their pay on economic and market conditions rather than new rounds of regulation and oversight. What can, or should, be done about record pay on Wall Street?
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