Kenneth Feinberg

October 8, 2009 by

Kenneth Feinberg,WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. labor group on Thursday asked the Obama administration’s “pay czar” to stop any retirement payments to Bank of America Chief Executive Ken Lewis.

The Service Employees International Union sent a letter to pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, calling Lewis “one of the chief architects” of the economic crisis and saying he should not receive any retirement or severance package until the bank stops foreclosures and increases lending.

“Taxpayers have already provided nearly $200 billion in bailouts and backstops to Bank of America,” the letter said. “This enormous public investment entitles taxpayers to have a say in the bank’s executive compensation practices.”

Bank of America announced last week that Lewis will leave the company by year-end. Lewis stands to receive a retirement package worth $125 million.

Feinberg, serving as the government’s pay czar for the financial bailout program, does not necessarily have explicit authority over Lewis’ severance package because the contract may pre-date his authority.

But Congress gave Feinberg broad authority to issue advisory opinions that could impact Lewis.

SEIU said Bank of America, under the management of Lewis, has restricted lending to consumers and small businesses while raising interest rates and failing to modify distressed home loans.

A Bank of America spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The group said Feinberg should stop any severance payments to Lewis until Bank of America commits to stop foreclosures, provide more affordable loans, lower interest rates on credit cards, and reform pay practices so they are in line with shareholder interests.

“The American people are counting on you to reform the reckless culture of Wall Street that allows bank executives to drive our economy into the ground and walk away with millions,” the letter said.

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