Kenneth Feinberg has his work cut out for him. The Special Master for Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Executive Compensation told the general press on Monday that he and his staff were reviewing the 2010 pay packages for the top 25 officials at each of the seven firms, including American International Group (AIG), that took TARP funds.

But Feinberg also has TARP fund recovery considerations, and like the pay packages, say experts, recovery mandates will affect shareholders. The Wall Street Journal reports that TARP recovery actions represent difficulty for policymakers trying to encourage financial markets, while acknowledging that the taxpayer still holds a significant stake in certain firms. “Feinberg said he was ‘acting as surrogates for the taxpayers as creditors,’ and will continue to do so,” reports the Journal.

Yet Feinberg stressed that he isn't currently in any negotiations to take such steps, and that any move to recoup payments (including salary and bonuses already paid out to employees at TARP firms) would have to tie to an "egregious" situation.

As reported in Insurance Networking News, the current compensation packages of the firms’ top executives already are under critical review, chiefly due to the uproarious response to news of executives’ bloated salaries and bonuses. As a first step, Feinberg cut compensation for the top 25 earners at the seven companies for the final two months of the year—a time when bonuses are typically paid. And last month, the Federal Reserve issued bank pay guidelines designed to control the problems officials say contributed to the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

The new compensation rules are expected to be announced within the next two weeks. These rules will apply strong compensation standards of the Congressional legislation to the companies that received “exceptional assistance” from the government. The compensation structures will apply to the 26th to 100th highest-paid workers at the seven firms, and those people "will likely receive less compensation'' after his rulings, Feinberg said.

Meanwhile, AIG reversed a decision it made a year ago related to selling three of its Japanese life insurance businesses in an effort to help pay down the $85 billion government loan when reports surface that the company has decided not to sell two of its Japan units, AIG Star Life Insurance Co. and AIG Edison Life Insurance Co.

As the federal government finds itself on a tightrope shared by its newly acquired shareholders, it is taking other actions to ensure a positive return by the seven firms to financial health, and return of its TARP investments. Yesterday, the Securities and Exchange Commission reported launching a review of the mechanics of shareholder voting, including how and by whom proxy votes are cast, whether vote tabulations are accurate and why voting participation of retail investors is down, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in a statement.

"Our efforts will be targeted at making sure that investors are receiving the right information, and not just more information," she said.

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