Bankers furious over tax on taxpayer-funded bailout bonuses; calls it 'unAmerican'
Mar 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM
The Financial Times is reporting that Wall Street and European bankers have struck back against moves by US lawmakers to slap punitive taxes on bonuses paid to high earners at bailed-out institutions.Senior executives on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday warned of an exodus of talent from some of the biggest names in US finance, saying the “anti-American” measures smacked of “a McCarthy witch-hunt” that would send the country “back to the stone age”.There were fears that the backlash triggered by AIG’s payment of $165m in bonuses to executives responsible for losses that forced a $170bn taxpayer-funded rescue would have devastating consequences for the largest banks.“Finance is one of America’s great industries, and they’re destroying it,” said one banker at a firm that has accepted public money. “This happened out of haste and anger over AIG, but we’re not like AIG.”The banker added: “It’s like a McCarthy witch-hunt...This is the most profoundly anti- American thing I’ve ever seen.”Vikram Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, told employees in a memo that some anger about executive compensation was “warranted”. But he hit out against the idea of a special tax. “The work we have all done to try to stabilise the financial system and to get this economy moving again would be significantly set back if we lose our talented people because Congress imposes a special tax on financial services employees,” he wrote.Some policymakers expressed concern that banks may try to break out of the government’s embrace by paying back public capital even if the price is a more severe credit squeeze. CLICK HERE for the full report.