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Executive Compensation – Weekly Round Up

Due to the financial meltdown in Wall Street, the Obama administration has decided to bail-out troubled banks using taxpayer money. As can be expected, the public was outraged by this development. The common consensus during the time the TARP program was being developed was, “why should we pay for the banks’ mistakes?” Well, the bailout actually came with a long list of strings attached. One of the most notable ones was the limit imposed on executive compensation.

Over the course of these past few months, we’ve seen the fast recovery of some of the nation’s biggest banks. And how each of these banks has struggled to raise capital in an effort to pay back the TARP money they received. Behind all this is a very strong motive: bank executives want to be in control of their compensation and company strategy. This week’s round-up is composed of blogs that had talked about banking executives’ compensation, its importance, and what it will mean for the average person.

Mark @ CS Monitor talked about how the government plans to restructure how bank executives are paid. His post titled “Obama Looks of Overhaul Executive Pay” talked about the proposed “say on pay” legislation. It will essentially give shareholders a bigger voice in how much the board and other top management officials will be paid. The initiative is designed to minimize risky behavior by tying executive compensation to behavior.

Gary @ Uncommon Common Sense wrote an in-depth post titled “America’s Big Business: When you Commit a Crime” on his blog. The article essentially discussed how bank executives “knew better” than to take the risks they were taking prior to the financial crisis. But they were operating in an industry that encourages high risk to increase they pay.

Andrew @ Harvard Law School Blog provides a comprehensive look as to why bank executives behaved the way they do in the industry. Titled “Compensation Structure and Systematic Analysis” dealt with pay arrangement that encouraged extreme risk taking to product pay incentives. In addition, the article discussed how short term focus distorted long term planning on the part of the banks.

Banks Pay Back TARP

The Treasury has finally allowed 10 big backs to repay some part of the TARP money they received during the height of the financial turmoil. Though the Treasury did not specifically identify these banks, allowing them to make the announcement on their own, the banks have been identified as JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, US Bancorp, BB&T Corporation, Capital One Financial, American Express, State Street Corporation, and the Bank of New York and Mellon.

Two of these banks namely JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are deemed financially strong enough to leave the TARP program. It is expected that the 10 big banks will return an estimated $68.3 billion back to the government. The latest estimate is dramatically more than the original repayment estimate of $25 billion. Other financial institutions specifically Morgan Stanley and Northern Trust are expected to repay the government as well. Previously, Morgan Stanley was asked to raise $1.8 billion after “failing” the stress test.

The $68.3 billion to be repaid this year is around a quarter of the TARP bailout fund. 22 community banks have already paid back $1.9 billion to the Treasury. While these developments are certainly good news for the Obama administration, the public, and even the bank themselves, these institutions are not yet totally out of government oversight. As condition to receiving the bailout fund, the banks agreed to “warrants” or stock options that give the government a share in profits once stock values rise.

In addition, the public won’t benefit as much as initially believed. This is because five of the repaying banks have little to do with consumer lending. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are mainly investment institutions while State Street, Northern Trust, and Bank of New York Mellon are asset management firms. With the exception of JPMorgan, none of these banks are big-time consumer lenders. The biggest lenders – Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., and Wells Fargo – don’t look like they’ll be in the position of repaying the government anytime soon.

Whatever the case, the repayment plan is certainly a welcome development in today’s grim economic times. Within several days, majority of the financial institutions mentioned above will wire the repayment to the Treasury Department.

Banks to Undergo Management Review

Over the past few weeks, news has been buzzing that nine of the country’s largest banks that failed the stress test are undergoing capital-raising initiatives to meet the government’s criteria. Monday is scheduled to be deadline for federal bank regulators’ approval for these plans. This long-awaited moment can be outshined by a less known deadline though: management review of these banks.

Banks including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America will assess their top executives to ensure that the banks have sufficient leadership capability that will take them through the tough times. According to regulators, this process is necessary to find out if the current management has the “ability to manage the risks presented by the current economic environment”.

For many, this management review seems confusing, if not unnecessary. This is because the rules of the management review remain unclear. And individual regulators are providing contradictory guidance which further confuses the process. Whatever way they call it, it is clear that federal regulators are simply pressuring banks to get more people with commercial banking expertise.

Bank of America has already bowed to the pressure by replacing one senior executive and several directors. For its part, Citigroup is beefing up its board by adding new directors. It remains unclear if federal regulators will approve the management review on its deadline, which is on Monday.

Even as “weaker” banks prepare to wait for government approval for their capital raising initiatives and management review approval; “stronger” banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group are preparing to repay the government. If their repayment scheme is approved, this will spell a dramatic milestone in today’s chaotic financial market.

It is expected that the government will accept the repayment of these banks. The Fed previously announced that it will allow repayment if the banks can prove they can raise capital from outside investors and lend to borrowers without relying on federal support.

Offshore Banking – Weekly Round-Up

Since the financial meltdown on Wall Street started in 2007, economic experts started to predict the dire consequences these would entail on the economy. True enough, the world’s largest economy bowed under pressure. Banking giants such as Citigroup Inc, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase all had to be bailed out. The real cost to the taxpayer is not being felt now, but it will in the future.

This week’s roundup has something to do with opening an offshore bank account. Fortunately or unfortunately, American perspective seems to be getting wider due to the economic crisis. Previously, everyone thought that their banks and their currency were safe.  Seems that they are not so sure now. As a result, bloggers are talking about how opening an offshore account will help individuals both as business and as personal investors.

Amy @ Ofiz uploaded a blog post titled “The Benefits of Having an Offshore Bank Account for Business Purposes“. It essentially talked about how businessmen, especially those who travel a lot, can access their funds easier if they have an account in another country. Further, Amy also discussed about how an offshore account can be opened.

The blog Wealth Building Empire recently had an interesting article named “Hide Money Offshore with an Offshore Bank Account and Offshore Debit Card“. At first glance, the blog post seems suspect. Is it teaching its readers to engage in money laundering? But upon closer inspection, it actually does nothing of the sort. Its author is merely recognizing the fact that bank accounts can be frozen in many parts of the world. And there is nothing a depositor can do about it unless he looks offshore.

There’s also a little-known WordPress blog called the My Panama Lawyer that provides a lot of detailed guidelines about offshore banking. In a post titled “How to Open an Offshore Bank Account“, the author details the process in 6 easy-to-follow steps. Everything from choosing a country to the permitted amount you can deposit is outlined in this blog post.

As the economy remains uncertain, a lot of people are also becoming hesitant in keeping all their money at home. And indeed, they are wondering if they should keep their money in dollars.