Executives at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and hundreds of financial institutions receiving federal aid aren’t likely to be affected by pay restrictions announced yesterday by President Barack Obama.
The rules, created in response to growing public anger about the record bonuses the financial industry doled out last year, will apply only to top executives at companies that need “exceptional” assistance in the future. The limits aren’t retroactive, meaning firms that have already taken government money won’t be subject to the restrictions unless they have to come back for more.And now the banks are fleeing the TARP program, which was designed...to get the banks to accept the money.Obama, 47, “is not proposing to go back and get that $18.4 billion in bonuses back,” Laura Thatcher, head of law firm Alston & Bird’s executive compensation practice in Atlanta, said of the cash bonuses New York banks paid last year, the sixth- biggest haul in history. “Right now, we have not clamped down” on pay at banks.
In addition, some executives may be compensated for the potential reduced salaries with restricted stock grants, which may result in huge paydays after the bank repays the government assistance with interest.
“They’re just allowing companies to defer compensation,” said Graef Crystal, a former compensation consultant and author of “The Crystal Report on Executive Compensation.”
The restrictions are “a joke,” he said, because “if the government is paid pack, you can be sure that the stock will have risen hugely.”
And more details:Goldman Sachs said yesterday it wants to repay $10 billion it got from Treasury under the TARP to signal the firm is healthy and to escape limitations that came with that infusion of money. “Our financial condition is sound and, subject to approval from regulators, we hope to repay TARP money as soon as practicable,” said Lucas van Praag, a spokesman for New York- based Goldman Sachs.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said Feb. 3 that the firm didn’t need capital and didn’t ask for TARP funding. The lender accepted the $25 billion it received from the first capital injection at the request of the government and to help stabilize the banking system, he said.
The Associated Press: Banks could still find wiggle room in pay caps
The squeeze on big paydays for executives of bailed-out banks will probably leave Wall Street plenty of wiggle room. Consultants on executive pay say the caps imposed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday will probably apply only to a few executives — not star traders, brokers and salespeople who routinely earn whopping pay packages.
Others note Wall Street typically finds ways to exploit loopholes and figure this time will be no different.
"You've got a lot of people on Wall Street who are not executives but still make extremely big salaries," said Mark Borges, a principal at compensation consulting firm Compensia Inc. "I suspect this doesn't impact them at all."And just how many people will this affect?Executive pay consultants say firms are sure to seek ways to get around the new rules anyway.
That's what happened in 1993, when Congress limited the corporate tax deduction on executive pay to $1 million. That move fed the boom in stock option grants, which weren't subject to the limits.
And the rules don't spell out how many executives would be subject to the cap. Compensation experts predicted anywhere from five to 25 executives per bank could face the new restriction. That would still represent only a tiny fraction of a large firm's brass.
I repeat: This thing is just a load of populist crap. Recognize when you're being played for fools.