Monday, February 2, 2009

Bailout Boondoggles

Every year at tax season I get to wondering about where it is that all my tax dollars go....

Here are some of the Bailout Boondoggles that you and I have paid for.

1. The Golden Parachute

Peter Kraus joined Merrill Lynch in early September to head up its strategy team. But Bank of America, bolstered by $25 billion in bailout money, won shareholder approval this month to take over Merrill. The deal will trigger a golden-parachute clause in Kraus' contract, allowing him to pocket as much as $25 million for his two months on the job, according to The Wall Street Journal.

2. Executive Retention

Should taxpayers pay to keep executives who steered a company into a ditch? American International Group thinks so. It recently agreed to pay retention bonuses to 130 executives, including $3 million for Jay Wintrob, who heads the division that sells annuities. Last year, he earned $2.5 million in salary, bonus, stock and options. Other AIG execs will get more than $500,000, or about 200% of their salaries, to stay through 2009, according to Bloomberg. The insurer had previously promised to forgo bonus payouts as part of the bailout plan. AIG says retention bonuses are needed to keep execs from leaving while it restructures and that departures could cause the company's reinsurers to cancel contracts.

3. Executive Compensation

As millions of Americans learn what it's like to make ends meet on unemployment insurance, executives at banks getting taxpayer bailouts will continue to live the high life. Capital One Financial CEO Richard Fairbanks got $73.1 million in pay last year, according to The Corporate Library. That's 1,456 times the median household income of $50,233 earned by taxpayers footing the bill for Capital One's $3.55 billion federal bailout. Bank of America chief Kenneth Lewis last year took home $23 million, or 458 times the income earned by taxpayers covering his bank's $25 billion bailout. Both CEOs also make way more than the median of $8.85 million for CEOs at S&P 500 companies. Despite having to lean on taxpayers with modest incomes for help, both CEOs will likely continue to earn stratospheric pay. Neither bank has indicated it plans to cut CEO pay.

4. The Corporate Jet For Personal Use

While hard times are forcing many Americans to stretch another year out of the family jalopy, the CEOs at banks getting bailout money will continue to ride -- and fly -- high. John Mack . who heads Morgan Stanley, which has taken $10 billion in bailout money so far, enjoyed $356,000 worth of personal use of a corporate jet last year. JPMorgan Chase has gotten $25 billion in bailout money. Its chief, James Dimon, took $211 million worth of use of a company jet last year. He used company cars at an estimated cost of $68,000. So far, neither company has indicated it will cut back on CEOs' personal use of corporate jets as part of its acceptance of taxpayer bailout money.

5. Mergers and Acquisitions

Many banks are playing "Let's Make a Deal" and building empires with bailout money, instead of using it to make loans that help the economy. Shortly after PNC Financial Services got a $7.7 billion cash injection, it announced a buyout of National City. BB&T and Zions Bancorporation have said they have the urge to merge -- now that they've collectively pocketed $4.5 billion in bailout funds. Bigger banks mean less competition and higher fees for the taxpayers who helped fund these deals. And the mergers have created more banks that are "too big to fail" -- so when they come back for more money, it'll be even harder to say no. BB&T says it would buy only "problem" banks, in the spirit of the bailout program.

6. And More Golden Parachutes

Cleveland's National City bank was run so badly that it was virtually ruined, mainly by imprudent exposure to subprime mortgages. Management's reward for creating this colossal disaster: $200 million in golden parachutes. And taxpayers will get fleeced a second time. Because of a last-minute change in tax rules, PNC Financial Services, which bought National City, will get about $725 million in income-tax credits. Those credits stem from the $19.9 billion PNC expects to lose on bad loans made by National City.


On the positive side....now I know that there's quite a nice list of potential clients for 2009...John Mack, Jamie Dimon, Richard Fairbanks, Kenneth Lewis, Peter Kraus and their bailout buddies!!!
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2 comments:

Karen said...

You're so damn smart, you should be getting paid to journalize for a major daily.

Belle de Ville said...

Karen...I don't write this stuff...I just find it in my daily reading and get pissed off so I post about it.
And thank god I don't have to work as a journalist....I'd be angry everyday!

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