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Debate Over Obama's Plan to Reform the Financial System

Monday, September 14, 2009

President Obama's plan to rewrite the rules for the U.S. financial system is provoking debate. The president proposed shareholders have a vote on the salaries and bonuses of top executives at financial firms. City Comptroller Bill Thompson manages the city's five pension funds, which are big shareholders and he agrees with Obama.

THOMPSON: We've advocated that and have been part of some of that for years. I think we can bring additional pressure, along with other public pension funds, to push Wall Street in a direction and to push greater transparency and accountability.

But Pete Peterson disagreed. He led Lehman Brothers in the 1970s and then co-founded the private equity firm, Blackstone. He says shareholder approval of compensation packages is going to make it difficult to attract new hires.

PETERSON: If I want to hire a top talent, how exactly do I handle that? Do I say, we're willing to give you X shares of stock options. We're willing to give you this salary. But, incidentally, we can't be sure until next spring, when we have a stockholders meeting.

Congress is expected to take up a bill on executive compensation this fall.

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