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House Panel Approves Limits On Executive Pay

UPDATED at 5:20 p.m. with quotes:

The House Financial Services committee voted moments ago to ban pay practices at financial firms that encourage "inappropriate risk," one of the government's boldest moves into the private sector.

The vote by the committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a vocal critic of what he has termed excessive corporate pay, now goes to the House for a vote on Friday.

Lawmakers in both parties said they were reacting to constituent pressure.

“Politically, it was very difficult for my members to stand up and fight this legislation,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the committee's top Republican, according to the Associated Press.

Wall Street and other financial firms pay their largest amount of compensation to executives in bonuses tied to performance -- bringing in business to the company or structuring deals that reap huge fees for the company.

Frank and other Democrats -- and some Republicans -- have said the bonus structures have encouraged executives at the financial firms to create deals that were too risky that, if they collapse, could have wide ramifications on the economy as a whole. They point to the recent financial crisis, which was partly caused by over-leveraging and excessive risk-taking based on rising home values.

“You get hired for this very prestigious job and you get a salary, and now we have to give you extra money for you to do your job right?” asked Frank, the AP said.

The House package goes further than what President Obama seeks. Earlier this month, he sent Congress legislation that would let shareholders have a vote in executive compensation.

Of course, the term "excessive risk" is highly debatable and free-marketers chafe at government controls on how much a private company can pay its employees.

The legislation if passed would be highly invasive, said Tom Quaadman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been fighting the limits on pay.

“It moves the government into the role of setting compensation policies for virtually every employee of all financial firms,” he said, according to the AP.

At the National Press Club on Monday, Frank repeated a line he's been using on executive compensation for the past several months: “If the risk pays off, you make money. And if the risk doesn’t, you suffer no penalties. Heads you win, tails you break even. It’s like selling lottery tickets that only cost you money if they pay off.”

Some lawmakers favor forcing executives to give back bonuses if deals don't work out.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  July 28, 2009; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Barney Frank, Obama, executive compensation  
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How dare these Socialists protect stockholders!!!

Posted by: daweeni | July 28, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

@ daweeni: Have you looked recently at your 401K, IRA or similar - might give you a hint that this measure actually aims at protecting your valued assets.

Posted by: DCWolf1 | July 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

It's sad to see Congress no longer cares about the limitations on their power put on them by the Constitution. So much for the tenth amendment.

Posted by: Bailers | July 28, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Well, if there were any remaining questions about the Dems not liking capitalism those are cleared up. So much for only companies taking bailout funds having restrictions.

Funny, though, how Barney and Friends have run this Country into Debt, and they do not see anything risky about that.

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Of course if you looked at your 401K in October of 2007 you would have drawn a different conclusion. I'm VERY LEERY of a government employee making a determination about how much someone's work is "worth" and declaring it bad or good. I don't want to live in soviet russia -- even when I agree with them on a specific person/salary. I don't think that is a political decision.

Posted by: RBCrook | July 28, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse


Do you want someone to put a restriction on how much you make?

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

This is a start. Maybe they should regulate some of the risky activity as well.

Posted by: SarahBB | July 28, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Unconstitutional use of power.

Posted by: scorekeepn | July 28, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Obama's idea of giving shareholders a say in compensation seems reasonable.
A salary cap in the private sector does not seem like a good idea.

Posted by: billy8 | July 28, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Big Business, including OBama's stimulus favortites like Goldman Sacks and GE, over pay their executives. Then again...

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class.


That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK,
we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan".

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.
The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D!
No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
The scores never increased as bickering,
blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that.

Posted by: Patriot12 | July 28, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Barney Frank cooked up another one...a darn ole very JEALOUS man who would give anything to earn even more money I bet.

We sure don't know what all this generalization means at all. Like "Excessive Risk" "Wall Street and Financial Firms" guess we have to wait for MORE people to get involved to make ONE MORE GIANT GOV'T. DICTATORSHIP to go.
Obvious, we needed some better regulations, but dictating to PRIVATE business is going way to far...NONE of Govt. Buisiness and any business that trys to borrow again from "This Gov.t'" should go bankrupt before giving in to dictatorship from a Socialist, marxist type Govt. we have going on. I live in California and I would love to send OUR state Government all to the Feds..Ca.govt. would fit in just right with the Feds, stupid, self serving, jealous, spend and spend and spend and tax and tax and tax and people leaving by the dozens here....
I don't know at all where MY..the taxpayers money is that Loaned bailouts and some have paid back...Did any of you receive Interest in the mail for bailouts?
They call it taxpayer money, but seems it really isn't because we our in debt up to our Grandchildrens cuties, so why do they call the bailout "OUR MONEY" when in fact we will never never see a penny of return or interest or anything on it...only our Govt. will...more spending how fun!
I DO NOT WANT the GOV'T. telling Private Business what they can pay to their employees or what their bonus can be. Govt. is spending on terrible things that just bring more ruination to our country and talking as if they were 'Our Parent" and letting us know whats good for us. OMG
Sickning...We have done realitively well for a long time (minus a few objections of course) But never never did I think that the U.S. of America would ever ever end up this way and how come a large amount of people do not see whats going on and whats coming? IF they tell you what you can pay your employer, then what do you think is next??? Wake up

Posted by: journe | July 28, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

If certain companies pay employees in ways that encourage too much risk, and these companies collapse, then companies that pay employees in ways that encourage too much risk will disappear on their own, won't they? The notion that allowing large banks to go bankrupt would end life as we know it is a fictional, unproven bogeyman that was erected to distract and frighten the public into acquiescing to the government's bailouts and interventions.

Posted by: bpayne1 | July 28, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Congress is correct to address the current "heads I win, tails you lose" structure of the financial industry.

If the government is guaranteeing the bottom, then they have the right to limit the top.

It's clear that compensation must be tied to longer term results. Otherwise, people seem to be content to bankrupt their company and move on.

Posted by: postfan1 | July 28, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Do any of you commentors actually believe that ANY human being is worth $100M/year? Or are you just hoping that someday this mught be you?
GREED GREED GREED is the only "justification" for this nonsense.

Posted by: Americanwoman4 | July 28, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

You neo-cons don't even know what's good for you and the rest of the country. Those rip-off-artist executives were over-compensated with money stolen from retirement funds, bailout money and the like and all they did was lose about 38% of their investors money. I wish I could pay myself a bonus, everytime I equal the market and lose 38%. I have never lost 38% in a year and I have been investing, since 1989; you have to really suck, to lose that kind of money. What don't you neo-cons like about limits on exexcutive compensation; haven't you lost enough money yet? Anybody using just half their brain, would know that executive compensation should always come from stock-holders votes, 100%, to keep the companies honest and no back-dating options. All stock-options should be purchased and sold at market prices. Why do you morons worship the CEO's and other executives? They are no better then the rest of us and usually a lot more dishonest. Corporate-America, can go to hell, they have never done anything positive for me and have destoyed 3rd world nations.

Posted by: jackexton | July 28, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

So, all you who support wage limits on executives, do you also support them for your job?

Exactly how is this going to help at all? Other then expand the power of the Federal Government?

This Country was built on risk. There are a lot of rich people who are not company executives, but made because they took a risk. If we tell people your pay off for risk, years of work, etc, will be limited, it will destroy the work ethic of this Country. Of course that is exactly what the Dems want, to have everyone have to look toward the Government for hands outs and help.

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

“You get hired for this very prestigious job and you get a salary, and now we have to give you extra money for you to do your job right?” asked Frank, the AP said.

OH MY GAWD - it's called an incentive, or a bonus.

If you bring in more money for the company, you get more in return.

Geez, this Frank really is a jealous petty man.

billy8- brilliant example!!!

Posted by: Jules5 | July 28, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse


Hmm, there are movie stars that make twenty million per movie. There are people that make millions to shoot a ball or hit a ball. Yet, libs are not up in arms about that.

These companies have enabled the average American to have a retirement fund, allowed the average American to own stocks. Allowing the Government to say how much a person can make is not what this Nation is about.

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse


The GOP has done more to bankrupt this country than anybody else. Reagan started it, Bush presided over even more than Reagan. Reagan's legacy was the end of the cold war and it gets cheaper every day...Bush has taken a house fire and turned into a city wide conflagration.

The deficits run up so far during Obama's term are still clearly under Bush's watch as well.

Healthcare reform will be Obama's, but I'll take universal healthcare over low taxes and a few getting rich at my expense.

I do strongly disagree with the gov't telling companies how much they can pay their employees, whatever the pay bracket. Gov't needs to set rules and require transparency (something Obama is not doing well himself either) but not to set arbitrary caps. Let the customers of the companies decide based on what they get in return for an executives excessive salary.

Currently though, most people don't have a clue what executives make of the companies they frequent. That's what needs to change.

Posted by: rpixley220 | July 28, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse


Corporations have never done a thing for you? That is too funny.

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

argh...misread the author, that should be @irish031 and not Bailers...

Posted by: rpixley220 | July 28, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The government does it again-- it solves a symptom not a root cause. The deals they talk about could not have occurred if solid mortgage lending practices had been maintained.

Posted by: hz9604 | July 28, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

This is the biggest garbage I have ever heard. Anyone that supported this - you just gave your life away. The federal gov't have ZERO business telling any corporation what pay should be.

Americans you've been duped.

Posted by: debmries | July 28, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Let the CEO try this corruption in China and watch them cry as they are marched out back and shot.

Posted by: beenthere3 | July 28, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Is this only for companies that accepted TARP money or all companies in general?

If your company didn't take money and managed to survive the blood bath, it's their business how they compensate their executives. (Not saying I agree with the practice, but they do love the whole "open market" deal.)

If it's just for the companies that took the bailout and partial government ownership, then yes, the government does have a say in how compensation is distributed. Obscene bonuses after being bailed out by taxpayer money aren't called for.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | July 28, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse


As long as the government has seen fit to create the fiction of incorporation, corporations should continue to exist at the government's whim, and under the government's control. Now, if you want to get rid of corporations, and make every single stock holder's property subject to confiscation for debts owed by partners in a venture, then I might agree that the government shouldn't intervene. Of course, you are a much purer capitalist than I am, so perhaps you can explain why it is okay for governments to create such a thing as a corporation in the first place.

Posted by: daweeni | July 28, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Way Past Time.

An editorial in "Business News" clearly demonstrated and labeled CEO salaries and stock options as OBSCENE back in the EARLY 1990's.

For that matter, if you think about it, the entire GOP millionaire club is obscene.

Posted by: lufrank1 | July 28, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Any private sector corporation or organization that took public/government funds to alleviate private debt, IS NO LONGER PRIVATE.

The financial firms in receipt of TARP funds

Manufacturing companies who were victims of their own bad business processes

The energy firms using gov't subsidies for "R&D" but not repaying

Agricultural and Mineral organizations using gov't funds to offset losses

These are ventures (like ALL others) that should not be allowed to continue if they are not fiscally viable. They should have died years ago if they can't turn profit (or at least self-sustain).

America should not have been so lenient on any of these companies, should not continue to be so. But this is a problem begun years ago (1930's and before!), and it's not one administration or the other that is to blame. We are all culpable and will soon reap what we have sown.

Fire Congress, take their pensions. Then gut the politically appointed posts (how many czars do we have now?) from this giant pig of a government. Who are the worst offending executives? Who are the upper echelon of finance and politics that contribute the least?

We the people, it is in our power. We are only helpless and hopeless if we allow ourselves to be... The beauty of America is that we get EXACTLY what we ask for.

Posted by: thepearl0369 | July 28, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I guess all of you constitutional rights advocates were too busy defending the constitution to bother taking notice of Madoff, Fortress Investment Group, AIG, derivatives, and hedge fund excesses? If these golden boy financiers are as valuable as they say, let them prove it the old-fashioned way - let them earn it.

Posted by: sundog2 | July 28, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse


To borrow money on the credit of the United States

˜ The Property Clause Power

˜ The power to regulate Federal Property

˜ Fiscal Powers- levying and colleting taxes

˜ Trade Regulations- regulate foreign and interstate trade

˜ Military Power- responsible for defending our country by establishing a military force; to see that military laws are enforced; to declare war

˜ Other Powers- responsible for establishing rules citizenship in the United States; to maintain post office; to make laws for copyrights and patents; and govern the District of Colombia
James Madison is rolling over in his grave.

Posted by: menopausequeen | July 28, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

This is only a little down the road in the direction of justice and common sense, and will have little effect.

The thing to do is to allow no one in America on any job to ever receive a bonus of more than one month's pay per year.

Cut, dried, pressed and looks and feels good when you wear it.

There is no reason in the world for a Banker, Trader in Stocks, etc. to make more per year than a Policeman, Fireman, Ambulance Attendant, Teacher, etc. for these are all noble work, in which the people contribute mightily to the welfare of all citizens, and often risk their lives.

Jobs in finance at the moment are all criminal because Usury is involved. Until the Banking Cartel that owns the Fed and prints and distributes our money is disassembled and taxed all the way down to the Gates of Hell, where Greed's Dark Master resides, NOTHING is going to change in America.

You want real change? Then, Figuratively, we must do what made the Minute Men famous and ferocious, and labeled as Terrorists. They broke the rules of War at the time. They shot the officers first in any battle.

We must do the same by taking our aim away from the foot soldiers of the Banking Cartel and instead "shoot the officers first" figuratively, by throwing all our forces against the dozen or so families who own the Fed, and who, by controlling our money supply, control America.

see the internet film "The Money Masters" on Google or You Tube. Even better yet, go to "", where you can find all the information/ammunition necessary to destroy the Fed, and why this is an absolute necessity. It is our duty if we wish to free our children and grandchildren from the slavery of Debt.

Posted by: vcompton1 | July 28, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse


Please explain to me why any entity whose existence began with the government granting it the status of "corporation" should not be subject to the government that created it in the first place? When you hold all the property of a partner in a venture subject to the same confiscation that any other individual person would face, in repaying all debts, then you might have a point. Corporations are a fiction created for societies benefit.

Posted by: daweeni | July 28, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

All "bonus" payments should be tied to the medium and long term success of the company. Anything else is asking that the company be run by short-term jerks with the outlook of bad second-hand car salesmen. That they have MBA's makes them worse.

Posted by: davidnelsonau | July 28, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Barney, did that cover your friends over at Fanny Mae/Mac. Did that cover the czars, the House and Senators themselves, the advisors to Obama. We are headed down a dangerous road, that will never be corrected.

Posted by: gsms69 | July 28, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Ar last, Congress is doing something I agree with. I still want the rest of my wish list - bring back tariffs on goods and services that are produced as a result of outsourcing, a $5 charger per call for every call handled by an offshore call center, an end to and the immediate deportation of all H1-B visas, an ban on any student visa that takes a spot in a public university program from a U.S. citizen, he death penalty applied for any white collar crime that results in the destruction of a family, or death of an employee (even if only indirectly). I would asked for a licensed hunt for any Wall Street executive of a firm that has ever received a bailout and gave money, no matter how small, to any politician, but I figure the nitwits back your way wouldn't understand the way your pet "businessmen" have wrecked the res of the country.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | July 28, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, still no answer from those that want to limit executive pay about if they want to limit their pay.

While the Debt did go up under Bush, he had nowhere near the Majority obama has, which means the Dems voted for all of those spending bills. And lets not forget the Dems have controlled Congress since 2006. Obama spent more money on the non read bailout bill then any previous bill int he history of the Country.

Corporations are set up to create jobs, and to create wealth. This Country would not be a Country if not for corporations and risk. There are more than just a "few" rich people in this Nation. Just look at Fairfax and Montgomery Counties.

The Federal Government does not set up corporations, corporations are incorporated in States under State law, not Federal law.

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

How about pay limits for entertainers, athletes, and most of all television news "reporters?" Katie Couric surely doesn't deserve $7 million; I want my share.

Posted by: get_it_right | July 28, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

For all of those posters that say corporations are evil and have not done anything positive for you, how exactly are you accessing this webpage? Seems a bit hypercritical for people to bash the fruits of corporations while using those fruits.

Posted by: irish031 | July 28, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

get-it-right - What you are writing about s a truly progressive income tax. They have this in Scandinavia and it works very well to eliminate the sort of unfettered greed that has done so much harm to this country. I know you were being cynical, but I (and MOST other American's) would love to have a tax that escalated and took excess wealth from the filthy rich, including television personalities and athletes.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | July 28, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

This is a good step on the path of returning these companies to more honest business practices. Its very bad business to use someone else's money to take risks and make a profit if the risk is successful, but not to lose anything if it fails. You would think that Bernie Madoff would be a reminder of just how dangerous such practices really are. However, I have to admit that I would have been more pleased to see that the actual shareholders would be the one's setting the salaries.

Posted by: MET9 | July 28, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

So it begins. Wouldn't it be Barney Frank and his minions who created this financial mess in the first place? Wasn't Frank the one pushing financial institutions to be "liberal" with loans for people (his constituency) who really couldn't afford or manage even "no down payment" loans? Now to cover up his misdoings, Frank wants to keep the heat on the "evil executives" who caused the financial meltdown (by kowtowing to political pressures and new "regulations"). Why not cut Frank's pay as he did and still does a lousy job as a congressman.

Posted by: dodavatar | July 28, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone remember the phrase " Today Germany, tomorrow the world?" The slippery slope here is obvious. When the camel sticks his nose into the tent, sooner or later he will be inside.

You want Mussolini and company runnning everything? You want the State to run health care, all business decisions of banks, financial institutions, automobile companies and just about everything else? Then you would have loved Germany in the thirties.

Posted by: mharwick | July 28, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

This is a good step on the path of returning these companies to more honest business practices...
However, I have to admit that I would have been more pleased to see that the actual shareholders would be the one's setting the salaries.
Posted by: MET9 | July 28, 2009 8:23 PM

Do you own a business. Soon you too will have the opportunity to be forced to purchase insurance or pay through the nose. Your salary could be set by fiat as well. THE SHAREHOLDERS SELECT THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS WHO SET THE SALARIES. NO MORE. THE SUPREME LEADER HAS TAKEN OVER

Posted by: mharwick | July 28, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Karl Marx(the author of "The Communist Manifesto") would be proud of his Liberal Democrat protege' Obama.This is just another step toward socialism.This move would not last a day in an honest court of law.It so obviously violates the constitution.If Mr.Bush had proposed such a thing the opposition would be deafening.Liberal pundits raised Hell that the Bush administration dis-regarded Constitutional Law.The Bush administration at least tried to fit policy within Constitutional limits.The Obama administration simply ignores the Constitution.
Folks,please,read "The Communist Manifesto".What the Liberal Democrats are doing will lead us to become the kind of socialist state that thousands of our people died to protect this nation from.

Posted by: donald_brown_466 | July 28, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

How in the hell will Wrangle/Fwank and company determine appropriate risk? These dolts in the Fed Gov can't even run a railroad or a post office. They don't know an ROI (Return on Investment for the rest of you lib dolts) from a balance sheet!. If you get those idiots running anything but their noses, they will cause a fiasco like Fannie Mack and Freddie May and their risky sub-prime loans that have all but shut down the economy. That's OK, super elf Tim will run to the rescue. Guv Motors sold 22,000 fewer cars last month than the month before. (They want to get out and sell the stock) They are up to their a--es in aligators and can't even find the swamp!! Their gameplan for Guv Motors was to shut down 1/3 of the dealerships and cut the advertising budget in half. They have no idea what they are doing - or do they?? Say What--- Bammer?

Posted by: veritas7 | July 28, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

There's a large group of very rich people who could change compensation practices themselves: the shareholders. But they have no incentive in a world of government bailouts. Let the companies fail and you'll see the investors dialing in the right risk/reward for their employees.

Posted by: kemurph | July 28, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

And in addition Mr. Fwank , if a CEO takes on risk and the company can't perform, he may get his bonus and his golden parachute but his rear will be on the street! They have no idea how corporate executive compensation commitees work. The Board also reviews business plans and the Chairman's postion description states he or she has the responsibility to evaluate and determine achievable and realistic risk levels. NO RISK NO GAIN FOLKS!!

Posted by: veritas7 | July 28, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

The Dems dislike private enterprise, they want only public enterprise.

Today the DOE refused to guarantee loans for USU, so, there probably won't be a new nuclear fuel recycling plant. The Dems don't like nuclear energy either. Guess we'll just burn people with money for energy.

Obama's policy in a nutshell: Take from the ants, give to the grasshoppers. Don't let anyone accumulate capital.

Posted by: jack29 | July 28, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

The big banks are getting fatter. Interesting considering most of us are belt tightening just to survive. Wasn't the trouble that the banks got to big to begin with? What to do. Have the kids cut out big paper hearts with some broadsheets. Craft solutions and recycle.

CitiHall Mirror to honor a previously-agreed upon compensation package that could pay him $100 million for his work in 2008. I said I liked the movie Dracula, I don't think I would like drinking blood though. You know where to go without being told.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 29, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

GSM69, I am on H-1 B visa and have 2 Master's Degrees. I paid more than 10,000 dollars to schools and lawyers plus interests on credit cards. Come to deport me, I will give you my address.

Posted by: stan001 | July 30, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

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