The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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CEOs Who Steered Economy Off a Cliff Received $28.9 Million Average Annual Salary, New Public Citizen Report Shows

Public Citizen Calls for Reforms; More Than 20 Protests to Be Held Around Country


The CEOs of 10 Wall Street firms that either failed or received
taxpayer bailouts were paid an average of $28.9 million per year in the
years leading up to the Wall Street meltdown, according to a Public
Citizen report released today. Their average pay this decade,
calculated through 2007, equaled 575 times the median American family's
2007 income.

"Fat cat compensation has nothing to do with good corporate
performance," Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. "These
CEOs were exorbitantly compensated for driving their companies off the
cliff. At a minimum, Congress must ensure that corporate leaders are
paid for long-term performance, not short-term illusions."

The 10 companies highlighted in the report are American
International Group, Bank of America, Bear Stearns, Citigroup,
Countrywide Financial Corp., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers,
Merrill Lynch and Washington Mutual. The report recounts that former
Countrywide CEO Angelo R. Mozilo was paid $244.8 million in the two
years leading up to his firm's demise; former Lehman Brothers CEO
Richard Fuld received $246.3 million in the three years preceding his
firm's bankruptcy; and former Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal received
a $161.5 million golden parachute when he was removed in 2007. The next
year, Merrill Lynch was sold for a fire sale price.

Public Citizen proposes three steps to address the recent Wall
Street crisis and forge a direct link between compensation and
long-term outcomes:

* The CEOs who headed companies that failed or received bailouts
should pay back any compensation above the salary of the president of
the United States for five years leading up to their company's collapse;
* Congress should mandate that all annual compensation above $2 million
for employees of publicly traded companies be set aside for seven years
before they receive it, to ensure that they work to create long-term
value, not short-term profit; and
* All compensation for the executives and top-paid employees of
publicly traded firms should be approved by votes of long-term

Public Citizen also has called for a windfall bonus and profits tax to be imposed on Wall Street.

Public Citizen's report is being released in conjunction with a
series of protests organized by members of the Americans for Financial
Reform coalition against the enormous bonuses that Wall Street firms
plan to lavish on their employees in 2009, just one year after the
firms were rescued by taxpayers.

This week, Public Citizen will join its partners in the Americans
for Financial Reform coalition at demonstrations at banks in more than
20 cities across the country. Protesters will demand that Wall Street
and big banks use their anticipated $150 billion compensation and bonus
pool to help American families recover. Some protesters will be singing
"carols," such as "Fleeced and Robbed" (to the tune of Feliz Navidad)
and "Deck Their Halls." In Austin, Texas, the "It's a Wonderful Life"
characters Mr. Potter and George Bailey will face off.

READ the report.

LEARN more about the demonstrations.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

(202) 588-1000