Copyright 2010 MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspaper Group Inc.All Rights Reserved Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont)
March 23, 2010 Tuesday
Bailed-out CEOs face pay cuts
Wednesday March 24, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top earners at five big companies still living on federal bailout money will take a 15 percent pay cut this year, the Obama administration s pay czar says — yet many will still make millions.
Kenneth Feinberg also said cash salaries would be capped at $500,000 this year for the vast majority of the top executives at the five companies. Any further compensation has to be in stock.
Still, he said, 69 of the 119 executives covered by the restrictions will take home pay packages worth more than $1 million.
The announcements Tuesday were the administration s latest effort to deal with outrage over lucrative pay provided to executives of bailed-out companies while the public struggles with stagnant wages and high unemployment.
Taxpayers can still expect to lose tens of billions on the rescues of the five companies: American International Group, GMAC Financial Services, Chrysler Financial, Chrysler and General Motors.
Feinberg said his review refuted companies complaints that pay restrictions would drive away top talent. Inside the five companies, 84 percent of the top executives covered by last year s pay limits have stayed put, he said.
“These statistics undercut the argument that if you don t pay more, people will leave,” Feinberg said. “They are not leaving.”
Feinberg set pay rules in October for the seven companies that received the most money from the government s $700 billion bailout fund. Since then, Citigroup and Bank of America have paid back the money and are no longer covered by the pay guidelines.
It s far from clear that the five remaining companies will repay their taxpayer billions.
AIG, the world s largest insurer before it nearly collapsed in the financial crisis, has been selling assets to repay some of its $182 billion bailout package. This month, it sold American Life Insurance Co. for $15.5 billion.
That deal is expected to cut AIG s outstanding debt to the government to about $78 billion. The company is considering other sales. And the government will sell shares it holds in AIG to recoup some of its investment.
A repayment of $568 million to the Federal Reserve last week will allow AIG executives to start getting the biggest chunk of their pay packages, known as stock salary, a year early.
It remains doubtful that taxpayers will recover their entire investment in AIG, though. Last fall the Government Accountability Office said AIG s stability depends on market conditions and continued government aid.
The Congressional Budget Office has also estimated that only about $15 billion of the $55 billion extended to GM, Chrysler and their financing arms and suppliers would be repaid. The government, which owns 61 percent of GM and 10 percent of Chrysler, also plans to get money back when those companies sell stock to the public.
Independent watchdogs have accused Feinberg of being overly generous with the pay packages. A congressional oversight panel this month questioned his approval of a package that netted GMAC CEO Michael Carpenter about $1.2 million for the last six weeks of 2009 — including restricted stock and about $120,000 in cash. That s equivalent to an annual salary of $9.5 million.
Elizabeth Warren, chair of the oversight panel, has said Feinberg s decisions should be scrutinized given the companies dependence on government money.
Feinberg also said he is asking 419 companies that received bailout money to provide details of compensation their executives received at the height of the crisis at the end of 2008 and in early 2009.
The letters will go to companies that got bailout money before Feb. 17, 2009, when the pay rules took effect. That includes major companies like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.
For executives who make more than $500,000, the companies are asked to detail what forms of compensation they received from the time they got their bailout money until the rules were in place.
Those companies will have 30 days to provide Feinberg with that information. He said he planned to report on his findings within two months of receiving the data.
Feinberg can t require executives to return any pay from before the rules took effect. But he said he will review it to determine whether it was “inconsistent with the public interest,” as the law requires. If so, Feinberg will try to negotiate to get some of the money back.
“All I have at my disposal under the law is the bully pulpit,” Feinberg acknowledged.
One factor he said he would consider in deciding whether the payments were excessive would be whether the company had repaid its bailout money.
“If a company has completely repaid with interest, that makes it somewhat easier to conclude they were acting in the public interest,” Feinberg told reporters.
The review of the companies that received government aid was required by last year s $787 billion economic stimulus measure. The stimulus also included the tighter pay rules that Feinberg is now applying.
In his letters to the five companies detailing his pay decisions for 2010, Feinberg generally praised them for adhering to the guidelines he put forward last year. But AIG proposed pay packages that Feinberg suggested might run contrary to the public interest.
Feinberg ruled that only five employees could earn more than $500,000 cash. AIG had proposed that 10 be exempt from the cap. He also reduced overall pay packages based on comparisons to salaries at similar companies and put more pay in long-term restricted stock.
AP Business Writers Tom Krisher in Detroit and Stevenson Jacobs in New York contributed to this report.
March 24, 2010