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Financial Services Committee wants bonus ban for TARP recipients

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Financial service firms receiving federal funding will no longer be able to issue bonuses or any money the government deems “unreasonable” or “excessive” if a newly passed bill from the Financial Services Committee gets through Congress.

The Financial Services Committee passed H.R. 1664, the Grayson-Himes Pay for Performance Act of 2009, Thursday. The bill requires “certain compensation” will not be issued to companies that have received direct capital investments under the TARP program and the Housing and Economic Act unless these investments are repaid. All non-performance-based bonuses would be prohibited as well.

“This bill is based on two simple concepts. One, no one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money. And two, no one should get rich off abject failure,” said Congressman Alan Grayson, D-Fla., in a statement. “An economy in which a bank executive can line his own pocket by destroying his company with risky bets is an economy that will spiral downwards. And a government that hands out money to such executives is a government that fails to protect the taxpayers.”

Regardless of any contract, bonuses will not be issued if direct capital investment under TARP remains outstanding, according to the Committee, even though there currently is a provision that would exempt the prohibition’s coverage if the contract was entered on or before Feb. 11, 2009.

Should Congress pass the bill, the Treasury Secretary would be required to consult with the Chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel and obtain approval of the agencies that are members of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council before defining what would be “unreasonable” or “excessive” compensation.

The Treasury Secretary would also be required to keep track of how many executives and employees received or will receive total compensation above “specified amounts” during the fiscal year.

A House vote on the bill is expected to come as early as next week.