California Congresswoman Defends 'Pay Czar' Position

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," June 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: So, it's official. We have, speaking of which, another czar, number 16, as I have been saying, the White House appointing Ken Feinberg as the nation's pay czar, master of compensation, whatever you want to call him.

I wonder, though, what he — what he about the treasury secretary on this whole pay cap issue, what he had to say.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: We are not proposing an ongoing government role in setting policy on compensation. We do not believe it is appropriate for the government to set caps on compensation.


CAVUTO: All right. So, if he's not for pay caps and for not setting pay caps, why do we have a pay czar?

Let's ask Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who favors having a pay czar.

Video: Watch Cavuto's interview

Congresswoman, I — if I heard the treasury secretary right, that's not what this dude is going to do. So, why do we need him?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think we do need someone watching the store.

You know, we have not had the kind of watchful eye from our regulatory agencies that could see trouble coming, could talk about the unreasonable compensation, and the bonuses, and the golden parachutes. And, so, if he does nothing more than place transparency into these companies, so that the public and the stockholders and the investors can know what is going on, that is enough for me.

CAVUTO: All right. So, if he's just — if there is no cap, if he is not going for caps, then...

WATERS: He's not going to cap any salaries, not going to do that.

CAVUTO: All right. So, what is he capping? What is he doing? What — why do we have a pay czar?

WATERS: Well, we are going to look at bonuses. We are going to look at bonuses, particularly for those companies who get TARP money.


CAVUTO: All right, so is he going to cap bonuses? Is that what he's going to do?

WATERS: Well, we're going to talk about what is fair, what makes good sense, and whether or not there should be golden parachutes or whether or not there should be the kind of compensation that is short-term, rather than long-term, stock options, that kind of thing.

There is a lot to look at, a lot to talk about. After all, this is the taxpayer's money that is being watched. These companies have taken the TARP bailout money, the taxpayers' money. And, so, they should be watched.

CAVUTO: No, no, I see — Congresswoman, I see your point. And it's a very good one.


CAVUTO: I'm just wondering, though, with all of these banks and brokerage houses rushing to return that money, I guess, so they can go back to paying their executives whatever they want, what happens in the interim to those who don't?

Now, if their salary is not being capped, but you seem to be implying their bonuses could be, then I don't understand the role of this pay czar. Is he, then, saying, "I'm going to put a limit on how much a CEO can get in bonuses or in stock grants; I'm going to put a limit on what his executive vice presidents can get with the same"?

What is it? Because the treasury secretary seems to think, no big deal, don't worry about it.


CAVUTO: What is it?

WATERS: Well — well, we're looking at the top five executives in the companies that have received a lot of TARP money. Those executives will be watched. We will be looking at their bonuses, and we will be coming up with a formula similar to...


CAVUTO: Well, do you have a number in mind, Congresswoman? Do you have a number in mind?


CAVUTO: The reason why I ask is because, at first, it was a half-a- million dollars, right? It was a half-a-million dollars. They said, anyone who earns more than that, too much.

What do you say?


WATERS: No, no, no, no. That's not any numbers have — like that have been put on it.

And I'm — I'm not the czar, but what is being talked about, bonuses that do not exceed one-third of compensation, no golden parachutes, no big cash-outs over a short period of time, transparency.


CAVUTO: Well, what is compensation, Congresswoman? I mean, compensation includes bonuses. Now, a lot of these guys' bonuses are bigger than their salaries.

WATERS: Well...

CAVUTO: So, all I am asking, because I can't get a handle on it, is, what is it?

WATERS: Well, obviously, we're talking about the difference between pay, compensation, and bonuses. We're going to define what those differences are. You may not have all of the information now.


CAVUTO: Ma'am, compensation is pay; it is bonuses.


WATERS: It could be. It could be, and it could not. We're separating that out. We're separating out what is a bonus.

CAVUTO: You don't know, do you? You don't know. I love you dearly, but you don't know. And the czar doesn't know. And the treasury secretary doesn't know.


WATERS: We're going to define — he's going to decide — define, what is a bonus? And I think we should let the czar do that.

What do have against a watchdog over the taxpayers' money? Don't you think, for example, the people should be looked out for after they have given and loaned their money to these companies?

CAVUTO: No doubt.

But, Congresswoman, I guess what I'm trying to find out, the people don't even know what the watchdog is going to be watching, because he has not given any numbers.

WATERS: Well, they will know. They will know.

We — we hope you will help to get that information out. As soon as the information is defined...

CAVUTO: I try. I'm asking you. I talk to the White House. I talk to Treasury. No one gives me a number. I just want a number. If I'm going to pay a pay czar, I want to know what pay he's going to look at.


WATERS: We're still working on — on legislation. As a matter of fact, we have a hearing tomorrow in the Financial Services Committee.


WATERS: We will be determining these things. You will be the first to know.

CAVUTO: Really?

WATERS: And we want you to help get that information out.

CAVUTO: Will I be the very first? OK.

WATERS: Maybe not the very first, but you will be right up there.

CAVUTO: All right. You better not call CNN first, because I'm going to be listening.


CAVUTO: Congresswoman, seriously...

WATERS: But we want you to know. We want you to help disseminate information.


WATERS: The taxpayers have a right to know.

CAVUTO: All right.

WATERS: And that's what you're all about, helping to disseminate information.

Let's look out for the taxpayers.

CAVUTO: All right. I just want to know what the heck that information is. That's all.

But, Congresswoman...

WATERS: Well, it's coming. It's coming.



CAVUTO: Well, so's Christmas.

But you're a great guest. Always good having you on. Thank you.

WATERS: Thank you so very much.

CAVUTO: All right.

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