WASHINGTON – Kenneth Feinberg will step down from his role as Treasury's "pay czar" this summer to focus on administering the BP Plc's $20 billion oil spill fund, a Treasury spokesman said on Wednesday.
The Treasury did not provide a specific date for Feinberg's departure, and it has not yet chosen a replacement for him.
Feinberg, a longtime Washington arbitration lawyer, was named last week to administer the BP fund, which the oil giant agreed to set up under Obama administration pressure to pay damage claims from the Gulf Coast oil spill.
Prior to starting his role at Treasury in June 2009 as "special master" to curb compensation at financial firms and automakers that received "extraordinary" government bailouts, Feinberg was best known for dispensing hundreds of millions of dollars to families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Feinberg and a team of Treasury employees still supervise pay practices at five firms -- American International Group Inc, General Motors Co, Chrysler Group LLC, GMAC Financial Services and Chrysler Financial.
His group, however, is expected to soon issue a report on past compensation at 419 companies that received funds from the Treasury's $700 billion bailout program, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
The report will judge whether any payments to the firms' top 25 earners of more than $500,000 were "not in the public interest," and if so, Feinberg could demand that the individuals repay some of the funds.
While he cannot legally force repayment, he can publicize individuals' lack of cooperation.
Public anger over Wall Street bonuses exploded in 2009 when it was revealed that AIG Financial Products, the AIG unit whose risky derivatives bets brought the insurer to the brink of collapse, still paid out hundreds of millions of retention bonuses to its employees. AIG is among firms that will receive close scrutiny in the "look-back" study.
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