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Letter To The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department Of Justice And The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary Of The Treasury, Department Of The Treasury


Date: Oct. 21, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

Letter To The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department Of Justice And The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary Of The Treasury, Department Of The Treasury

October 21, 2009

The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Geithner:

Thank you for your service to the United States in your respective roles. As you know, President Obama was elected in 2008 amidst a major financial crisis that was caused partly by unfair executive compensation on Wall Street. However, since his election little has been done to change the way Wall Street executives are paid. We as members of the Populist Caucus strongly believe that the Obama Administration needs to take stronger action on enforcement and oversight of Executive Compensation laws.

During this Congress strong legislation has been passed to limit executive compensation for companies that receive financial assistance from the federal government. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained provisions setting forth restrictions on the compensation of executives of companies which are currently receiving financial assistance within the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

In June, the Obama Administration appointed Kenneth Feinberg as "Special Master for Compensation" to set salaries and bonuses for senior executives that received massive federal bailouts. Mr. Feinberg is to monitor and enforce rules governing pay packages, yet AIG, a firm that has received about $120 billion in government bailout money, has promised some $198 million in bonuses to its employees next March.

Companies like AIG, who in large part caused the current financial crisis, are now returning to business as usual while Main Street continues to suffer. Government officials have said they had little authority to rescind pre-existing contracts and many at AIG fall into this category, but Mr. Feinberg should look at what he can control, like shrinking the pay of other AIG executives, such as CEO Robert Benmosche, if the firm does not claw back part of the bonuses for trading unit workers. It is clear that despite efforts to limit obscene executive compensation, not enough is being done using existing authority.

While we appreciate efforts by Kenneth Feinberg such as persuading outgoing Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis to give back $1 million he received so far this year and forego the rest of his $1.5 million salary for 2009, this is just a drop in the bucket to the rest of the compensation Lewis will get. The Bank of America has received $45 billion in government aid. Yet, while many Americans that paid for the bailout are still awaiting an economic recovery, Lewis is expected to walk away with $70 million in retirement money.

The Populist Caucus was founded upon the principle of expanding and strengthening the middle class. Actions by AIG, Bank of America, and other companies do nothing to strengthen the middle class and simply put more money into the hands of the wealthy while increasing the country's already high unemployment rate. Public confidence in our economic system can only be restored with real transparency and accountability -- and the Administration must take action now, not only to end the outrageous practice of awarding excessive bonuses to executives, but also to require greater transparency as a non-negotiable condition of receiving taxpayer funded bailout money.

We urge the Administration to put forth a strong plan that will limit irresponsible bonuses to the very people that put us in this financial crisis. We also urge you to investigate instances of excessive compensation for Wall Street executives. It is essential that pay practices that motivate executives to take excessive risks be eliminated. Thank you and please feel free to contact any of us if we can provide further assistance.


Bruce Braley (IA-1), Chairman
Keith Ellison (MN-5), Vice-Chair
Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Vice-Chair
Michael Arcuri (NY-24), Vice-Chair
Betty Sutton (OH-13), Vice-Chair
Louise Slaughter (NY-28)
Bob Filner (CA-51)
Leonard Boswell (IA-3)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)
Mike Michaud (ME-2)
Phil Hare (IL-17)
Hank Johnson (GA-4)
Steve Kagen (WI-8)
David Loebsack (IA-2)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1)
Peter Welch (VT-At-Large)
John Yarmuth (KY-3)
Eric Massa (NY-29)
Tom Perriello (VA-5)
Brad Sherman (CA-28)