Published: Apr 20, 2010 12:33 PM EDT

     NEW YORK (AP) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Tuesday its
first-quarter earnings almost doubled to $3.3 billion as its
trading business again surpassed the rest of the financial
industry. It was a bit of good news for the bank as it faces a
government civil fraud charge.
      Goldman Sachs earned $5.59 a share on revenue of $12.78 billion
as bond, commodities and currency trading buoyed its profits for
yet another quarter. That was well above expectations of analysts
surveyed by Reuters Thomson.
      Goldman Sachs also reported sharply higher fees from
underwriting stock and debt offerings.
      The company said it set aside 43 percent of revenue in the first
three months of the year to pay employee salaries and bonuses, down
from 50 percent for the same period last year. However, the actual
amount for compensation set aside in the quarter rose 17 percent
from last year to $5.5 billion.
      Banks' high levels of compensation, including bonuses, have come
under heavy criticism since the financial crisis that began in
2008. Lawmakers and the public have complained that the banks were
rewarding the same employees whose risky trading practices helped
plunge the country into recession.
      The bank's stock rose almost 1 percent in pre-opening trading.
      Goldman, which has outperformed other financial companies for
years, has been the strongest bank throughout the financial crisis.
It had less exposure to toxic mortgage-backed securities than other
companies and also has been more aggressive in its trading.
      Yet the firm is facing its biggest challenge ever after being
charged Friday in a civil fraud lawsuit by the Securities and
Exchange and Commission. The SEC alleges that Goldman and one of
its vice presidents misled investors who bought complex financial
products that were expected to fail.
      Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein in a statement thanked the bank's
supporters without specifically mentioning the SEC case.
      "In light of recent events involving the firm, we appreciate
the support of our clients and shareholders, and the dedication and
commitment of our people," he said.