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Treasury seeks corporate bonus killers
Question of the Day
If you've got a knack for knowing how much is too much in Wall Street bonuses, then the Treasury Department could have a job for you.
As Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner faced withering criticism for failing to root out big bonuses to executives at insurance giant American International Group Inc., the Treasury Department this week ran a couple of job ads that could help it avoid missing any more dubious payments.
Posted on a government jobs database Tuesday and Thursday, the ads seek applicants for the positions of executive compensation specialist and lead executive compensation specialist.
According to one ad, the duties of an executive compensation specialist include:
•"Recovery of bonuses, retention awards or incentive compensation paid to certain senior executives and other highly paid employees.
• "Limitations on senior executives' compensation that exclude incentives for taking unnecessary and excessive risks.
•"Prohibition on golden parachute payments to certain senior executives and highly compensated employees."
Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said the ads had nothing to do with recent criticism of Mr. Geithner and were posted to fill jobs under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. He said the language used in the ads came from the statute.
Neither job opening will last. The government won't take applications for the executive compensation specialist job past Saturday, and the lead executive compensation specialist position closes Monday, according to the postings, which are available at www.usajobs.gov.
• See related story:Treasury urged no tax on bonuses
To be sure, there's a big demand for such work - especially judging by all the talk about bonuses from Congress in recent days.
"We want our money back, and we want our money back now," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Thursday after the House voted 328-93 to impose big taxes on bonuses paid out to executives at bailed-out firms.
Added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican: "Americans want answers about the bonuses that were handed out at AIG, how it happened and how to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Much of the criticism that Mr. Geithner received this week has centered on when he found out about AIG bonuses, which were paid to about 400 executives as the company received more than $170 billion in government bailout funds.
Mr. Geithner told CNN on Thursday that his staff told him about the bonuses last week.
"I was informed by my staff of the full scale of these specific things on Tuesday, March 10," Mr. Geithner said. "And as soon as I heard about the full scale of these things, we moved very quickly to explore every possible avenue ... to make sure that, again, the assistance we were providing was not going to unduly benefit these people."
Whether beefing up Treasury's executive pay watch ranks will quiet any of the Republican House members who have called for Mr. Geithner's resignation remains to be seen.
"The timing of these [job] announcements are certainly interesting," said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who recently called for Mr. Geithner to step down.
"It's disappointing we continue to see this fire-ready-aim mentality. They're jumping into bailouts and then in retrospect saying what are the prudent steps we can take to make sure taxpayer money is well spent," Mr. Hill said.
Marthena Cowert, a spokeswoman for the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, said of the new job postings: "We wish them well in their search for quality employees."
But applicants shouldn't expect a Wall Street salary.
The lead executive compensation specialist can earn up to $153,200 per year, while overseeing the work of executive compensation specialists, who can make up to $120,830.
Still, there are lots of good government benefits, including 10 paid holidays, 13 sick days and up to 26 vacation days. No mention of bonuses, however.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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