Saturday, February 14, 2009

Narrowing the Gap

The WaPo reports on executive compensation control measures inserted in the new stimulus legislation, reportedly by Senator Dodd. This is good, this is good.

The stimulus package Congress passed last night imposes new limits on executive compensation that could significantly curb multimillion dollar pay packages on Wall Street and goes much further than restrictions proposed by the Obama administration last week.

The bill, which President Obama is expected to sign into law next week, limits bonuses for executives at all financial institutions receiving government funds to no more than a third of their annual compensation. The bonuses must be paid in company stock that can be redeemed only when the government investment has been repaid. With the measure, lawmakers seek to address public outrage over extravagant Wall Street paydays even as taxpayers bail out the industry.

Unlike the rules issued by the White House, the limits in the stimulus bill would apply to top executives and the highest-paid employees at all 359 banks that have already received government aid.

Bonuses make up much of financial executives' take-home pay, so the new rules could significantly diminish their compensation. For example, Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein made $68.5 million in 2007 -- a Wall Street record -- but $67.9 million of that was in bonus and other incentive pay that analysts said would be subject to the new rules.

The bonus restrictions would apply to a varying number of employees at each firm, depending on how much money the firm has taken in government assistance. At banks receiving less than $25 million, the limits would apply to only the highest-paid employee. For those receiving $25 million to $250 million, the restriction would apply to the five highest-paid employees. The top five executives and ten highest-paid employees would be affected at firms receiving $250 million to $500 million.

Other measures in the bill include a ban on golden parachutes to departing executives. This would apply to the top 10 most highly-paid employees at all financial institutions currently receiving government aid. The measure allows companies to continue to pay out deferred compensation and benefits such as pensions. There are billions of dollars in such awards on the books of financial institutions.

However, I'll really believe it when I see the screams and howls coming from the executive suites. Call me a cynic about these things.

No comments:

Post a Comment