It's unclear what will happen at companies that have already repaid bailouts funds, but are implementing stricter pay rules willingly after a public outcry. Goldman Sachs ( GS), known even on Wall Street for outsized bonus awards, is moving cash bonuses for 30 top executives into stock that will vest in five years. Others, like Morgan Stanley ( MS), and TARP-laden Wells Fargo, have taken similar measures on their own.

It's worth noting that the employees facing compensation cuts aren't now going to be paid a pittance. They will still receive healthy base salaries, and one would have to wonder why they work in the financial industry if they hadn't created a cushion by saving and investing earlier years' rewards.

There was once a strong argument that these workers are among the most talented and experienced financial-services professionals. They don't have to endure a pay cut; they can just take jobs somewhere else, including overseas rivals like Deutsche Bank ( DB), Credit Suisse ( CS), RBS ( RBS), UBS ( UBS), Barclays ( BCS) or Societe Generale, some of which had been aggressively suiting and hiring U.S. bank employees. But with Britain implementing a 50% bonus tax, and other European countries like France signaling support for such a move, would they really be better off across the pond?

Furthermore, a top bank executive who doesn't believe that an award of company stock would be far more lucrative in five years' time than a cash award today probably shouldn't be working there to begin with.

It appears that financial executives, bankers and traders may simply have to get used to doing more with less for a year. Wall Street may be better served saying good riddance to those who can't hack it than catering to their demands.

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York

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