Goldman Sachs didn’t have its best year, but CEO Lloyd Blankfein still managed to walk away with $18.6 million.

Blankfein and each of his top four lieutenants made that sum last year, Goldman GS said in its annual proxy statement filed Friday afternoon. Each man received $600,000 in salary, a $5.4 million cash bonus and $12.6 million in restricted stock that can’t be sold immediately.

Execs getting crushed by inflation

That compares with $9.6 million in salary and restricted stock granted each man in 2009. The other top executives are President Gary Cohn, finance chief David Viniar and vice chairmen Michael Evans and John Weinberg.

Why the big raises in a year that saw profits fall 37% and the stock go nowhere? Easy comparisons surely don’t hurt:

“Our performance over the last three-year period was strong, particularly in relation to our core competitors: Bank of America Corporation, Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley,” Goldman said. “While our performance in 2010 was not as strong as in 2009 due to difficult market conditions for much of the year, we continued to create value for our shareholders and prudently manage our firm from a risk perspective.”

And there is more where that came from. Goldman said in January it would raise its top executives’ base salaries in order to reduce their focus on incentives – a move regulators have made approving noises about.

But no one should labor for a moment under the mistaken notion that Goldman execs are overpaid. As a chart (see right) in the proxy statement shows, Goldman’s per-share book value has expanded at an 18% annual clip since the firm went public in 1999.

Meanwhile, in a heartrending twist, compensation for the firm’s named executive officers, or NEOs, hasn’t even kept up with inflation over the past decade. Yet another example of how it isn’t easy being rich.

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