So far, the firm has done a decidedly poor job in handling the criticism. CEO Lloyd Blankfein initially responded to criticism by saying the company provided a social benefit in extending capital. He said the firm was doing "God's work," and defended compensation practices, but also acknowledged how divisive the notion of banker pay has become. (He told the Sunday Times that he could "slit my wrists and people would cheer.)

Blankfein apologized for the comments a few days later, and Goldman recently unveiled a small-business assistance program, characterized as a charity project, to fend off detractors.

It's unclear how management will ultimately handle the pay controversy. Goldman is expected to unveil bonus awards when announcing its 2009 results in January. With investors, public-advocacy groups, and the government at its throat, there's one appropriate word of blessing: Godspeed.

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

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