Goldman Sachs backs down on pay, yanks 2009 cash bonuses for top execs

Hell hath no fury like the American public scorned.

In a stunning climbdown, Goldman Sachs (GS) has succumbed to popular outrage, announcing Thursday that its top 30 executives won't receive wads of bonus cash in their stocking this Christmas, but rather stock that cannot be sold for five years. Goldman, long the bastion of Wall Street's super-elite, also said it would grant shareholders a say in executive compensation -- a previously unthinkable concession.

Goldman's move represents a breathtaking capitulation for a firm that had planned to dole out over $20 billion in bonuses to its employees -- many of whom are already millionaires. Still, it remains to be seen whether Blankfein's no-cash decree will blunt public outrage at the firm. After all, it's not like the executives have taken ascetic vows and gone off to live in the wilderness like the Desert Fathers.