Audit Notes: Fed Foe of Big Banks, Executive Pay, Credit Tricks

The Huffington Post’s Shahien Nasiripour interviews Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig, a fierce opponent of too big to fail, who, among other things:

Lambasted the tilted playing field that benefits Wall Street banks over Main Street banks;

Called the idea that the U.S. needs megabanks to compete globally a “fantasy”

Tell that to Paul Krugman. Please!

Nasiripour says, correctly, that Hoenig has “emerged as one of the few influential voices calling for a fundamental redesign of a broken U.S. financial system.” It’d be nice to hear more from him in the mainstream press.

The Washington Post points out that some parts of the financial industry are right back to encouraging short-term thinking with their compensation practices. Money quote (no pun intended):

“I see no indication whatsoever that the business community is paying any attention to the administration’s suggestions,” said Nell Minow, co-founder of the Corporate Library, an independent corporate governance research firm. “On the contrary, I think pay is worse this year than it’s ever been.”


American Express, for example, shifted much of chief executive Kenneth I. Chenault’s compensation to cash. Even though his overall pay for 2009 dropped from the year before, Chenault received $11 million, or two-thirds of it, in cash. By contrast, more than two-thirds of his compensation in 2008 was in stock and stock options. His cash payout was $7 million.

At Wells Fargo, the company more than tripled the cash salary this year of chief executive John Stumpf, and Corning, a glass and ceramics maker, restructured its long-term incentive pay program — previously centered on stocks and stock options — to focus more heavily on cash.

— In good news for consumers, the Journal reports that the Federal Trade Commission crackdown on misleading credit-report sites has begun.

In a bad lede, though, the WSJ writes:

Starting today, credit-reporting bureaus will have to work harder to ensure consumers won’t get fooled.

As if they weren’t trying to fool consumers in the first place. That was the whole point.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.