Pay czar buzz…

This morning, everyone — and we do mean everyone — is buzzing about the tough rules apparently about to be put in place by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg. In this WSJ story, one person notes that the rules, which have yet to be made public “”were clearly much worse than what had been anticipated.” There’s a good summary of some of the pay czar coverage here at

Despite the level of whining and chest-thumping, it’s important to keep in mind that Feinberg’s rules will only apply to seven companies that received unusual levels of aid. Those companies are AIG, Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), General Motors, GMAC, Chrysler Group and Chrysler Financial. And while the rules appear to apply to more than just the top five named executives, there’s clearly many more executives who will not see much (if any) impact from whatever Feinberg sets in place. All told, the WSJ estimates that about 600 executives will be impacted, which is hard to work up much of a sustained whine over.

Take Freddie Mac (FRE) which we footnoted last month for handing out a $2 million signing bonus to its new CFO, Ross J. Kari. That’s on top of $1.6 million in “additional annual salary” — one of the most ridiculous terms we’ve heard in over six years of digging into SEC filings. Why isn’t Freddie in Feinberg’s sites? Hasn’t the government handed that company over $51 billion so far, which seems like an unusual level of assistance to us.

We’re not sure when these new rules will be made public — Feinberg is set to give a speech tomorrow at the George Washington School of Law and he’s also set to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform panel next week. But we can’t wait to dive into them.

UPDATE 12:20 pm: Well, turns out that some people hadn’t weighed in yet. Just a short time ago, we got a press release from the Center on Executive Compensation which essentially lobbies on behalf of HR executives at very large companies. Their take? They like the idea of converting salary to deferred stock. But (and there’s always a but) “there is a serious and potentially overriding concern that because of the significant reductions in overall compensation, combined with the mandatory deferral of allowable elements of the pay package, some companies may have trouble retaining the managerial talent necessary to restore performance and confidence in these troubled companies.” They’re also concerned about the government butting their heads into board decisions and urge whatever is passed not to spread beyond the seven impacted.