The category of pay that was most often affected was the maximum percentage executives could receive for exceeding financial targets for the year, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
In years past, the common structure involved a target bonus and then, on top of that, up to 200 percent of the target bonus for executives who exceeded their goals.
Most firms cited the Federal Reserve as prompting the change. Late in the year, the Fed began making phone calls urging banks to scale back on bonuses, the Journal said.
The Fed's goal was to rein in pay that encouraged excessive risk taking said a source familiar with the conversations.
PNC Financial Services Group, Capital One Financial Corp., Discover Financial Services Inc., BB&T Corp., KeyCorp, U.S. Bancorp and SunTrust Banks Inc. have all said in regulatory filings they had reduced their maximum bonus pay structures.
The study of 23 of the country's largest banks by Compensation Advisory Partners to be released Tuesday says that 14 of the 23 in 2012 awarded bonuses for exceeding targets at a rate of 125 percent or 150 percent, instead of 200 percent.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli this year said that bonus pay at banks was already down sharply from pre-recession times.
Bonus pay in 2012 is down about 40 percent from 2006, but it rose compared to 2011, DiNapoli said.