NEW YORK ( TheStreet -- The bailout bonus bonanza continued on Thursday as a public official issued an apparently damning report on 2008 payouts at the country's most troubled banks. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a study titled "'The Heads I Win, Tails You Lose' Bank Bonus Culture," blasting financial firms for paying bonuses that far exceeded profits for the entire year, when the banks were making money at all. Most of the figures highlighted by Cuomo has been available for months in annual reports, though he provides additional details in an appendix of the
report. Unsurprisingly, Citigroup ( C) and Bank of America's ( BAC) Merrill Lynch, two firms that remain in the crosshairs of the bonus debacle, got the brunt of Cuomo's criticism. He notes that Citi distributed $5.33 billion while Merrill paid out $3.6 billion in bonuses. Those two firms lost a combined $54 billion last year, and required government bailouts totaling $55 billion. Executives at financial firms have argued that employees' bonuses should factor in the performance of their individual units, as well as that of the overall company. Others, as Cuomo notes, have maintained that they neither requested nor wanted bailout funds, but were pressed by regulators to accept them. Still, Cuomo says their arguments for outsized bonuses are groundless. " Even a cursory examination of the data suggests that in these challenging economic times, compensation for bank employees has become unmoored from the banks' financial performance," he writes in the report.
JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Goldman Sachs ( GS) and Morgan Stanley ( MS) paid out bonuses that Cuomo calls "substantially greater" than the banks' net income as well. JPMorgan earned $5.6 billion, paid $8.69 billion in bonuses and received $25 billion in TARP funding.Goldman earned $2.3 billion and paid out $4.8 billion in bonuses, while Morgan Stanley earned $1.7 billion and paid $4.5 billion in bonuses. Each of those two former investment banks received $10 billion in TARP funding. Others, like State Street ( STT) and Bank of New York Mellon ( BK), paid bonuses that Cuomo calls "more in line" with earnings. For example, State Street earned $1.8 billion, paid bonuses of $470 million and received $2 billion in TARP dollars. -- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.