Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.
The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.
Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place. Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. "We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!"
Among the AP findings:
-The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.
-Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million.
-Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about.
-John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain only took the reins of the company in December 2007.