I have noted before that Hall's exceptional pay package was a direct result of exceptional results. Hall's case is an example of "high pay" derived from huge profits. Hall's Phibro group averaged $371 million in pretax earnings in the five years leading up to 2008. When partners at the big financial firms oversee growth in profits, "high pay" can be justifiable. Someone like Ken Lewis on the other hand, may fall into the category of "undeserved pay."
Whatever debate transpires over executive pay this week, investors should keep their eye on the prize. Scrutiny of pay packages is important, but so are results and earnings potential. CEOs should be rewarded based on their benefit to shareholders, which in upcoming months, could be "high".
This isn't Feinberg's first time assessing sensitive payouts. He did a good job allocating funds to 9/11 victims families. Terms like "deserve" and "need" have been redefined by the financial collapse, and balancing capitalism with public opinion will be no small task. The trick will be keeping the top talent at embattled institutions so that they continue to recover.
Investors looking to make a play on earnings from the Big Three through an ETF should consider iShares Dow Jones U.S. Financial Services (IYG) or the Vanguard Financials ETF (VFH) . While IYG trumps VFH on trading volume, both ETFs have high allocations towards the three banks. If the earnings results this week are positive, these ETFs could have a lot of room to move on the upside.