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Executive payout: confused yet?

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Anyone scratching their heads over executive compensation can be forgiven for being a bit puzzled. These days, it’s hard to keep track of who owes what, which executives are getting a fat bonus, and what might happen if government bailout money reaches bankers’ pockets.

The Wall Street Journal sparked more debate today in a report outlining that the same financial giants getting cash infusions contractually owe executives more than $40 billion in deferred pay, including bonuses.

Now banks are grappling with how to retain and attract top talent without setting off a storm of criticism by angry taxpayers and regulators alike.

Most recently, Rep. Barney Frank issued a dire warning on banks’ use of government money, saying: “Any use of the these funds for any purpose other than lending — for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions, etc. — is a violation of the terms of the Act.”

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