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'Pay czar' Feinberg hits the speaking circuit

Published on Sunday, September 20, 2009 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Steve Eder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man who has the power to set pay on Wall Street is hitting the road for a series of speeches before he has even publicly testified before Congress.

“Pay Czar” Kenneth Feinberg, tasked by President Barack Obama with reining in excessive bonuses at companies that received billions in taxpayer bailouts, has yet to address Congress. But he has signed up for at least eight speaking appearances across the United States during the next two months.

At the same time he is facing a late-October deadline to rule on compensation for the top paid employees at Citigroup Inc, American International Group Inc and other institutions that received federal bailouts, Feinberg is slated to appear at events in Washington, New York, Chicago, and California.

Compensation consultants and lawyers who negotiate the contracts are analyzing Feinberg’s every word, looking for clues on how he might use his post to rein in out-sized bonuses and quell the public fury over Wall Street excess.

There will be many opportunities for them to take Feinberg’s pulse during the next two months.

Seeing the pay czar speak about compensation, though, will come with a fee ranging from $65 for a luncheon in Chicago to $2,060 for a conference in New York, and some of the events will not be open to the media.

Reuters tracked Feinberg’s speaking appearances on the websites of various organizations, finding eight scheduled for the next two months. A U.S. Treasury Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, SIFMA, the U.S. securities industry’s main lobbying group, is hosting Feinberg at its executive compensation seminar in New York in October. Feinberg is not being paid to speak and the event is not open to the media.

“We felt it was important our members hear from Mr. Feinberg,” SIFMA spokesman Andrew DeSouza said.

Feinberg is also headlining a luncheon with the Chicago Bar Association’s Executive Compensation Institute, an event that is open to the media.

“Ken is in the epicenter now of the Obama Administration’s approach to executive compensation,” said Terri Mascherin, a Chicago lawyer who invited Feinberg. “It is a topic not only of interest to lawyers who advise in the area, but it is also of high interest to the business community and it is of some popular interest as well.”

During the next two months, Feinberg has at least five speaking engagements planned for New York, one in Chicago, one in Washington, and another in Los Angeles, The Los Angeles talk, which is free, is sponsored by the Association of Independent Music Publishers and Feinberg is expected to speak about his role as a special master for the National Music Publishers’ Association, where he would help distribute proceeds of a settlement with record labels.

Appearing on panels and making keynote speeches is nothing new for Feinberg, who is well known for his role as the special master of the September 11th victims’ fund. He also administered funds for victims of the Virginia Tech shootings and Vietnam-era Agent Orange poisonings.

Feinberg can expect some difficult questions from a fellow panelist when he speaks at a National Association of Corporate Directors in Washington next month.

Nell Minow, the co-founder of The Corporate Library, said she is planning to question Feinberg about what she seem as some of the “post-meltdown atrocities” in executive pay.

“What is the best way to address them?” she said.

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