The Czar and You

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Government-imposed limitations on compensation for bankers and traders are about to bite.

Will your paycheck or bonus be affected - perhaps indirectly? Or, do you take comfort that "It won't happen to me," because formal restrictions set by Congress and the Obama administration cover only the 25 highest-paid executives and producers within bailed-out firms?

As bonus season approaches, institutions propped up by U.S. government aid must structure 2009 payouts in line with legislation enacted early this year. And now, base salaries are in the government's gunsights too. Federal pay czar Kenneth Feinberg is poised to require the seven biggest bailout recipients (among them Bank of America, Citigroup, AIG and GMAC) to defer much or most of the salaries of their 25 highest-paid employees, by paying it in the form of restricted stock instead of cash.

Even institutions that repaid all their bailout aid continue to draw lawmakers' fire. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., recently warned Goldman Sachs to consider "the optics" when awarding bonuses for this year. Goldman's own CEO has regularly cautioned employees to avoid big-ticket, high-profile purchases that might give the impression of "living high on the hog." Repayment or no, it appears Congress could still take a lunge at any institution that waved a red flag by paying record bonuses.

Where does all this leave you?

Do you expect Washington's involvement will (either directly or indirectly) affect your compensation this year or next?

Does the regulatory and political environment surrounding bankers' compensation have any impact on your own career plans or goals?

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