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Feinberg to Step Down as Pay Supervisor to Focus on BP Claims

Feinberg Says $20 Billion May Fall Short
Kenneth Feinberg said the process for handling claims by people and businesses damaged by the BP oil spill must be accelerated. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s special master on executive compensation, will step down from the post by the end of August, a Treasury Department spokesman said.

Feinberg will leave to focus on his job as government-appointed administrator of BP Plc’s $20 billion fund to pay claims stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said today.

Under an agreement with the White House June 16, BP agreed to set up the escrow fund over a four-year period to pay claims and said it will contribute $100 million to support jobless oil rig workers.

While emergency payments will be made to oil-spill claimants without a requirement to give up the right to sue, Feinberg will establish a system for compensating victims for the longer term as an alternative to litigation.

Feinberg, speaking June 21 on CNN, said he hopes to replicate his record in administering a similar fund for families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by persuading claimants to accept compensation from the fund.

Since being appointed to the compensation post by President Barack Obama a year ago, Feinberg has scrutinized the pay of employees at seven companies that received taxpayer-funded bailouts, including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. He is wrapping up an analysis of employees at dozens of firms covering a four-month period of 2008 and 2009.

Pay Office

Feinberg, 64, has “built up an office” that can continue working on pay issues, Williams said.

Feinberg has sought data from companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that received aid under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. The review, required by law to determine whether any payments were inappropriate, covers employees earning more than $500,000 a year.

His request covered the period from October 2008, when bailout money was first awarded, to February 2009, when Obama signed economic stimulus legislation that included executive-pay curbs. Feinberg may use publicity to pressure executives to return compensation even if he doesn’t have the legal authority to recoup the money.

Feinberg may release his findings on the pay issue next month, Williams said.

In March, Feinberg told the five companies whose pay he supervises to cut cash compensation 33 percent from last year. Total pay in 2010, including cash, will fall by about 15 percent for the 119 highest-paid executives at American International Group Inc., General Motors Co., GMAC Inc., Chrysler Group LLC and Chrysler Financial Corp. Compensation at Citigroup and Bank of America was under Feinberg’s oversight until they repaid taxpayer funds in December.

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