September 11, 2010 in Business

New pay czar selected

Treasury lawyer replaces oft-criticized Feinberg
Martin Crutsinger Associated Press
Goolsbee to lead economic council

President Barack Obama on Friday named a longtime adviser, Austan Goolsbee, to be the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, calling him “one of the finest economists in the country.”

“He’s not just a brilliant economist,” the president said. “He’s someone who has a deep appreciation of how the economy affects everyday people and he talks about it in a way that’s easily understood.”

A University of Chicago economics professor, Goolsbee, 41, is one of three economists on the council. He replaces Christina Romer, who has returned to a teaching position.

The post of CEA chairman is a key position as Obama focuses on the sluggish economic recovery ahead of critical November elections.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration says it’s chosen a Treasury Department lawyer to replace pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, who stepped down Friday, ending a contentious 14-month tenure.

Feinberg was accused of failing to act aggressively enough to recoup excessive pay for Wall Street bankers. He said in a final report that he thought his work had helped reform compensation policies.

The administration says Feinberg will be replaced by Patricia Geoghegan. She will be responsible for setting pay guidelines for top executives at the four companies still getting exceptional assistance from the government’s $700 billion bailout fund.

Those companies are American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and Ally Financial Inc., the financing arm for GM and Chrysler.

Geoghegan spent much of the past year working with Feinberg as he issued a series of compensation reports. She came to Treasury after retiring as a partner from New York law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore, where she had specialized in tax law and executive compensation.

In his report, Feinberg recommended that the administration tap a permanent Treasury official to lead the compensation office.

He also recommended that the core compensation guidelines that had been developed should continue to serve as the guides for future compensation decisions. Those standards include placing limits on guaranteed cash payments and requiring that compensation packages have a significant performance component.

“Focus on long-term value creation. Stop excessive perquisites and other giveaways. And hold the line on cash salaries,” Feinberg wrote in his report.

Feinberg’s last day at Treasury was Friday although he has been devoting much of his time since mid-June to overseeing a $20 billion fund created by BP to pay the victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Before being chosen as the government’s pay czar in 2009, Feinberg had headed up the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund after the terrorist attack.

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