Happy days are here again, at least in the U.S financial sector where major banks and brokerages “are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year—a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The paper analyzed securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end to deduce that workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007. Morgan Stanley, for example, is on pace to pay out about $16 billion for 2009, up 33 per cent from last year, despite a projected 6 per cent decline in revenue. The heady compensation growth can be attributed to “Wall Street firms’ rapid return to pre-crisis revenue levels” as well as “growing confidence by some Wall Street firms that they can again pay top dollar for top talent, especially once they have repaid the taxpayer-funded capital infusions they received at the height of the crisis,” the WSJ reports. Financial companies contacted didn’t refute the results, but said it was too early to speculate.