In the year that saw Wall Street lose billions and saw historic financial firms collapse, bankers and brokers still collected some of the biggest bonuses in history. Last year $18.4 billion was paid out as bonuses, according to the New York State comptroller. That’s the same amount collected in the high-flying, boom times of 2004. The burning question now is whether or not banks used taxpayer bailout money to pay out bonuses. Officials say it’s an issue that needs to be closely examined. Bonuses did fall from last year (by over 35 per cent, on average), but the lesson is clear: on Wall Street, you can reward failure.