Judicial Watch Sues Treasury Department for Documents Detailing Meetings between Obama’s “Pay Czar” Kenneth Feinberg and AIG
MARCH 02, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Treasury Department to obtain documents regarding meetings involving Kenneth Feinberg, special master for executive compensation under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP); AIG Chairman Robert Benmosche; and New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley. Feinberg, also known as the Obama administration’s “pay czar,” is the federal official responsible for setting compensation guidelines for the seven largest firms, including AIG, using funds from TARP.
Through its November 23, 2009, FOIA request, Judicial Watch seeks the following documents:
A. Any and all records, including agendas, briefing papers, memoranda, minutes, notes, presentations, and/or summaries of the meeting on November 4, 2009 between Kenneth Feinberg, the special master for TARP executive compensation of the U.S. Treasury, Robert Benmosche, the CEO of the American International Group, and AIG’s Board of Directors.
B. Any and all records, including agendas, briefing papers, memoranda, minutes, notes, presentations, and/or summaries of the meeting on November 12, 2009 between Kenneth Feinberg…and William Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
C. Any and all records, including agendas, briefing papers, memoranda, minutes, notes, presentations, and/or summaries of the meeting on November 17, 2009 between Kenneth Feinberg…and Robert Benmosche, the CEO of the American International Group.
The Treasury Department acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request on December 3, 2009, and granted itself a ten-day extension for processing. However, to date, Treasury has failed to respond to the request in any manner. As Judicial Watch notes in its FOIA lawsuit, “This is not the first time in which [Treasury] has acknowledged [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request, granted itself a ten day extension, and failed to take any other action within the statutory time period. [Judicial Watch] currently has eight additional FOIA requests pending with [Treasury] in which [Treasury] has acted in the same or a similar manner.”
In March 2009, AIG disbursed $165 million in taxpayer-funded TARP funds to its top executives, prompting a massive public backlash. Obama officials reportedly lobbied Congress to insert legislative language allowing the AIG bonus payments and then apparently lied about their knowledge of the payment scheme. (As then-head of the New York Federal Reserve, current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner helped craft the original AIG deal.) The meetings at issue in Judicial Watch’s FOIA request took place in November 2009, just weeks after Feinberg publicly announced pay cuts and salary caps for AIG’s top paid executives. According to press reports, despite the Obama administration’s tough rhetoric on AIG, the insurance giant is set to pay out a fresh round of bonus payments to its executives in the amount of $100 million in 2010.
“The Obama administration apparently believes that when it comes to doling out TARP funds, it’s none of the American people’s business,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The TARP disbursement process is apparently rife with corruption, cronyism and mismanagement. With trillions of taxpayer dollars on the line, it’s time for the Obama administration to open the books to public scrutiny. Treasury’s secrecy about the bailouts is an absolute scandal that is undermining our country.”