Yesterday's announcement by the Obama administration that they "will order the firms that received the most aid to slash compensation to their highest-paid employees" has drawn much criticism and discussion across the blogosphere, including right here on this blog.
The plan, for the 25 top earners at seven companies that received exceptional help, will on average cut total compensation this year by about 50 percent. The companies are Citigroup, Bank of America, American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of the two automakers.I've spent a decent chunk of time today watching CNBC (I love Fall Break) and following the arguments being put forward by the guests on the afternoon shows as well as CNBC's highly opinionated news anchors.
At Bank of America, for instance, only 14 of the 25 highly paid executives remained by the time Feinberg announced his decision. Under his plan, compensation for the most highly paid employees at the bank would be a maximum of $9.9 million. The bank had sought permission to pay as much as $21 million, according to Treasury Department documents. At American International Group, only 13 people of the top 25 were still on hand for Feinberg's decision.
These earners did not cause the crisis and they are working hard to bring their companies back from the brink. Cutting their pay is the last thing we should be doing because the best of them can simply move elsewhere, thereby undercutting the profitability of the firms we are trying to restore.
The odds of top traders sticking around at A.I.G. for $200,000 a year are small. There is a grain of a good idea in the recent proposal, namely that we should discourage firms from getting into a position where they need a taxpayer-financed bailout. But the new policy goes about this the wrong way.