Goldman Sachs appointed 70 of its high-flying directors to the coveted status of partner on Wednesday – the lowest number since the Wall Street firm became a public company in 1999.
Partners command a salary of just under $1m (£630,000) – before any multimillion-dollar bonuses – and the title is handed out only every two years, after a vigorous internal vetting procedure known as "cross-ruffing".
Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's chief executive, said he "congratulated all those selected on this important achievement" after telephoning each one.
The cross-ruffing process began in the summer and involved existing members of the 400-strong partnership interviewing each other about potential new partners, who are not interviewed directly themselves.
The firm did not give any information as to why it selected only 70 new partners, when it had been expected to appoint between 75 and 100, but the lower count is thought to reflect the challenges facing the investment banking industry at a time when there are few deals to advise on and new regulations are forcing changes.
The number of staff at the firm has fallen by 2,000 to 32,000 in the past 12 months as revenue has fallen.
This month Goldman revealed it had dropped 33 partners to leave 407 members in a club that is regarded as the most elite in the financial world. As well as the salary, partners gain access to a special bonus pool that in good years can pay out multi-million-dollar bonuses, largely in shares.
Some 110 new partners were named in 2010 and 94 in 2008, the year of the financial crisis. About 115 were named in 2006, the big boom year before the credit crunch hit and Lehman Brothers collapsed.
Partners tend to stay in their roles for eight years and often quit the firm in their late 40s or early 50s, going on to other high-profile roles in government and other parts of the financial services industry.
Those selected to be partners have often worked their way through the rigid hierarchical structure of the firm. Nine of the new appointments are women, including Heather Bellini, a software analyst expert in technology stocks such as Google, who has been elevated unusually quickly after joining in 2011.
The partnership selection process was led this year by London-based partner Michael Sherwood, who chaired the committee which will on Thursday also promote staff to managing directors, the foothold to becoming a partner.
Managing directors are named annually and those currently at managing director level who were not selected for partner this year may decide to leave in the coming months.
The list of new partners included Blankfein's chief of staff, Russell Horwitz. In London, Huw Pill, Goldman's chief European economist, Anthony Gutman, a London-based investment banker, and Francesco Garzarelli are among those listed.
Yann Samuelides, who was in the spotlight three years ago over a divorce case involving allegations that he offered a woman money to leave her marriage, is also included.
Others include the banker David Schwimmer, hedge fund manager Kent Clark, and Gerald Ouderkirk III, an expert in collateralised loan obligations – the financial instruments that were at heart of the credit crunch.
Of the partners, 60% are based in the Americas, 30% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the rest are in Asia.
Although 70 is the lowest number of partners appointed since the company's flotation in 1999 – when there were just 221 partners, compared with 480 now – it is large compared with the years before the flotation, when the firm was much smaller. About 58 partners were named in 1996, for instance, up from 35 in 1992.
Bonuses are not decided until early next year, but in the nine months to September Goldman has already set aside $11bn to pay staff. That is slightly less than 2008, even though the $15bn revenue is higher than at the same time four years ago.
In a speech on Tuesday, Blankfein said: "We have taken a disciplined approach to expenses and capital management to ensure that the firm is positioned to benefit when a stronger operating environment returns.
"However, to generate stronger returns during the upturn, we have to support and invest in our client franchise during the downturn. Getting this balance right translates into outperformance over the cycle."
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