Pay chief wishes he wasn't!
Fewer than 12 exemptions granted for 4 companies

Cap our Pay? We don't need no steenkin' Pay Cap!

BY JUSTIN HYDE
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF

The idea of a Washington bureaucrat setting salaries and pay limits for American executives has never sat well with many corporate leaders. It also doesn't sit well with the bureaucrat making the calls.

In announcing fresh limits on middle-level executives at four companies that took federal bailout money, Kenneth Feinberg, the special master for executive compensation, indicated the Obama administration would joyfully end the practice as soon as the money is paid back.

Feinberg's rules released Friday for GM and GMAC also apply to failed insurance giant AIG Corp. and Citigroup.

Bank of America Corp. had been covered as well, but repaid this week the $45 billion it received, exempting it from federal pay rules.

"The No. 1 objective here in establishing limits on excessive compensation is to get these companies to repay what they owe the taxpayer," Feinberg said. "The government does not want to micromanage these companies."

With GM seeking a new chief executive and chief financial officer, Feinberg said he would consider lateral compensation packages for new hires to restock the automaker's executive suite. Former GM CEO Fritz Henderson had stood to make $5.5 million in 2009, with a base salary of $950,000 and the rest in stock depending on GM's performance.

For GM and GMAC executives covered by the new rules, Feinberg set a cap of $500,000 on cash salaries. Half of total compensation paid must come in stock, with limits on how much can vest quickly. And perks cannot total more than $25,000, with a few exceptions for international executives paid to move around the world.

Feinberg also halted any additional payments this year at GM to supplemental retirement plans for affected employees. All of the pay plans Feinberg has power over will have to be reviewed again in 2010.

For all four companies, Feinberg said he granted fewer than a dozen exemptions to the $500,000 cash salary cap, with one person making $1.5 million. Feinberg declined to say where those executives work, but did say the companies requested far more exemptions than he granted.

Contact JUSTIN HYDE: 202-906-8204 or jhyde@freepress.com

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