Banks: Clawing Back CEO Compensation

Last Updated Jan 17, 2008 4:33 PM EST

Okay, let's get real. We've had a series of colossal failures--Chuck Prince at Citicorp, Stanley O'Neal at Merrill Lynch and Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide Financial. All three are losing their jobs or their companies, yet each is walking away with at least $50 million in golden parachutes.

This is pretty outrageous. These individuals have presided over the destruction of billions of dollars of shareholder wealth. Their actions, combined with the misdeeds of others, may precipitate a recession in the United States. Millions of Americans are going to lose homes or jobs or both.

So how can these boards justify the rich exit packages? It's one thing if CEOs are highly compensated for a huge success that benefits shareholders, employees and customers. There is some justice in "pay for performance."

But there's no justice in these cases. The boards should resort to "clawback" provisions that allow them to dramatically reduce these outsized parachutes. It would be far smarter to do that now rather than wait for Congress to start demanding scalps once the recession unfolds.

P.S. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has summoned On'Neal, Prince and Mozilo to testify about their pay packages on Feb . 7. They won't be having much fun that day...