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Feddie Mac Chief Gets New Pay Package

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The pay package given to Freddie Mac’s new chief financial officer should have sent a message from Washington to corporate America about how executive compensation standards must change. Instead, it did just the opposite.

The government-controlled mortgage finance company is giving CFO Ross Kari compensation worth as much as $5.5 million. That includes an almost $2 million cash signing bonus and a generous salary that could top $2.3 million.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Freddie Mac, approved the pay package. A spokeswoman pointed to a statement that justified the agency’s approval of the pay, which was done in part because the amount was comparable to what others in the financial services industry make.

That way of thinking is exactly what helped feed the surge in executive pay over the last decade. Everyone wants to make at least as much, or more, than their peers.

Freddie Mac is not just another company. It’s alive today, and nearly 80 per cent owned by the government, only because almost $51 billion in taxpayer funds were pumped into it over the last year. More bailout money also may be needed in the quarters ahead as losses from its troubled mortgages mount.

Outside pay experts are outraged. “We are in a period when this shouldn’t be acceptable,” said Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate at The Corporate Library, an independent corporate governance research firm. “Even if pay is competitive to the market, that doesn’t make it OK today.”

Lawmakers, regulators and corporate directors have spent the last year talking about how to “fix” executive pay following the outcry over what many Americans deem as excessive compensation.

Banks have come under fire for paying top executives big bonuses, which many see as encouraging excessive risk-taking and a focus on short-term results. The Obama administration also has proposed giving shareholders of all public companies a nonbinding vote on compensation.

Financial companies that receive bailout funds under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme, or TARP, are bound by rules on compensation. So long as they hold the government money, they can’t pay cash bonuses to top executives, retention awards to top managers or stock compensation subject to performance-based vesting.

Freddie Mac doesn’t have to follow those restrictions because its government aid has come from outside TARP.

Instead, Freddie Mac and its sibling, Fannie Mae, operate under “conservatorship” of the U.S. government after being crippled by losses last year. That was done because of the vital role both companies play in the mortgage market by purchasing loans from lenders and selling them to investors. Together, they own or guarantee about half of all U.S home mortgages.

The McLean, Va.-based Freddie Mac has been without a permanent CFO for more than a year, when its two top executives stepped down as part of the government takeover in early September 2008. Acting CFO David Kellermann committed suicide in April.

Given the close government control over Freddie Mac, the pay package for its new CFO could have been held up as an example of reasonable compensation. Instead, his pay package doesn’t reflect much restraint.

When Kari joins Freddie Mac on October 12, he will receive a base salary of $675,000 and is entitled to an additional $1.66 million in cash for the year. The company said Kari will be paid in installments, but did not specify the timing of those payments in a September 24 securities filing. The company declined to comment beyond the filing.

Kari will also receive performance-based pay at the board’s discretion. The target amount for that cash compensation is $1.16 million, but what is actually given to Kari could be higher or lower.

His cash signing bonus totals $1.95 million and will be paid out in semi-monthly installments over the year. That money is supposed to cover what he forfeited in stock options and grants when he left Fifth Third Bancorp, where he served as CFO since last November.

Freddie Mac also said it would immediately allow him to sell his home to the company, waiving a 60-day offer period that is required for other executives. It did not, however, specify which of his homes would be covered; Kari has residences in Ohio, Oregon and Washington State, according to the filing.

No doubt that Kari is an able executive and has a hard task at hand. Before his 10-month stint at Fifth Third, he worked in the executive ranks at the insurance company Safeco and Wells Fargo.

Freddie Mac’s regulator, the FHFA, highlighted his qualifications in a statement it made after the pay package was disclosed. The agency said the approval of Kari’s pay was done after consulting with the Treasury Department. The FHFA declined further comment, and the Treasury Department didn’t return a request for comment.

In its statement, FHFA also said that Kari’s hire came at a “critical time for our nation’s economy and for the company.”

A better approach for Kari’s compensation would have been to require him to wait at least three years to receive a bulk of his compensation, instead of allowing him to get as much as 80 percent of it in cash over one year.

“It’s that kind of pay package that got us into trouble in the first place, because it encourages short-term thinking,” said Richard Ferlauto, director of pension and benefits policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a Washington-based labour group representing government workers.

At Fifth Third, Kari’s yearly salary was $580,000 and he received a $100,000 signing bonus. He also received a restricted stock grant of 20,000 shares and 40,000 stock appreciation rights, both of which would have vested after four years but were terminated once he left the Cincinnati-based bank.

Had he stayed at Fifth Third, he would not have been able to cash out of his equity compensation until the bank repaid the $3.4 billion in TARP funds it received. But Carol Bowie, head of the Governance Institute at RiskMetrics Group, a financial risk management firm, notes that his cash signing bonus at Freddie Mac effectively allows him to accelerate his receipt of equity he forfeited when he left Fifth Third.

Bowie acknowledges that attracting top talent is critically important to a troubled company like Freddie Mac, and supports the idea of executives being paid for their skills.

But she also thinks figuring out what’s fair in pay doesn’t mean sticking with the bad practices from the past.

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Business

Investment Expert Urges FG To Partner Zuga To Grow E-Naira

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An investment expert in Port Harcourt, Revelation Ohio, has called on the Federal Government to partner with Sam Zuga to grow e—naira to become the Nigeria’s digital currency in the cripto market space.

He said this became necessary in line with what is going on in the global digital currency market, where many countries, including the developed Western nations, are keying into the cripto market.

Ohio, the Chief Executive Officer of the Leverage Hub Consulting Limited, who made this known while speaking in an investment forum in Port Harcourt on Sunday, said that Sam Zuga, a Benue State-born Reverend Father, was the first African to develop a digital coin, the Zuga coin.

He described the Reverend Father as a philanthropist who has made remarkable mark in investment all over the world, especially in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

“Sam Zuga is the only African who has stretched himself to compete with those in developed countries in the cripto market, where all the digital coins are all non Africans.

“This man has stepped into the space and developed this coin named after him, and has strictly specified that the coin is African, and as we speak, this coin is strongly growing faster in the digital currency market.

“So it will be an advantage to the Federal Government, through the Central Bank that is considering to develop digital naira, to partner Zuga who is already in the space, as it used to be for those entering the market newly.

“This will have a multiplier effect on our people, as many unemployed persons will be engaged in the business, while the fortunes of many of the youths will be turned around”, he said.

The investment expert also urged the Nigerian public to take advantage of the space available in the cripto world to equip themselves financially, and get knowledge of the cripto market, since that is the way the world is currently going.

By: Corlins Walter

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Business

Brass Fertilizer Company To Create 15,000 Jobs

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Jobs – As Bayelsa Set For More Housing Estates

The Bayelsa State Government has allocated 595 hectares of land for the proposed Brass fertilizer company in Odioma Kingdom in Brass Local Government Area of the state.

This was as the government has also hinted that the bush clearing of the site of the said project has commenced in earnest.

The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Lands,Housing and Urban Development, Barr.Esau Andrew, disclosed this in Yenagoa, the state capital at the weekend.

He said that the Federal Government proposed project, when completed, was expected to create employment for not only qualified Bayelsans, but  has the capacity to engage no fewer than 15,000 workforce, with professional and un-professional qualifications.

Andrew who called for unity amongst the people of the host community, reiterated that the Governor Douye Diri’s led administration was willing to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the state.

He averred that the government was also desirous of fast tracking the development of all communities and sectors of the state’s economy through impactful projects and programmes.

“The Brass fertilizer company is situated on a 595 hectares of land in Odioma kingdom of Brass council area.

“There are no problems with respect to the take-off and completion of this gigantic project, but what we currently have there are basically issues on intra-communal arguments as to who becomes the chairman, Odioma Council of Chiefs”, he said.

He added: “As a community member and commissioner in the state executive council, I can assure you that that can’t stall the project.

“Governor Diri has directed the community to toe the path of unity and peace so that they can benefit maximally from this enormous project, and the youths, chiefs and elders of the community are ready to do as directed by the governor”.

In the same vein, the government has reiterated its commitment to building additional housing estates in the state.

To this end, Andrew said that the Governor Diri administration in partnership with the Federal Government’s Ruhi 774 Housing Scheme and Shelter Afrique were set to build new 800 and 100 units housing estates, respectively in the state.

According to him, while the Ruhi 774 Housing Scheme being handled by Real Estate Development Association  of Nigeria (REDAN) is to build 100 housing units in each of the eight council areas of the state, Shelter Afrique on the other hand is expected to carry out the construction of another 100 housing units in Yenagoa.

He said further that the state government has also concluded plans to build additional 260 housing units in the yet to be developed hectares of land acquired by the previous administration for the Ayama-Ijaw Housing Estate in the Southern Ijaw council area of the state.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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Oil & Energy

Global Geopolitics, Neo-Colonialism Fuelling Apathy Against Crude Oil, DPR Hints

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Hints

The Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR), yesterday, allayed concerns over the future of crude oil globally, stating that the resource would continue to remain relevant for decades to come due to a number of emerging factors.

In his goodwill address at the ongoing 45th edition of the Society of Petroleum Engineers Nigeria Council(SPENC), Nigeria Annual International Conference and Exhibition(NAICE), Director and Chief Executive of the DPR, Engr Sarki Auwalu, argued that the current apathy towards crude oil is not driven by technical and economic considerations alone.

According to him, the ongoing narratives of the relative significance of each energy type and the clamour of ‘end of oil era’ is not informed by technical and economic considerations alone but by global geopolitics and the vagaries of neo-colonialism as well.

Auwalu maintained that crude oil’s continued relevance in decades to come is because of some of its features as an energy resource, which includes availability, accessibility, affordability, reliability, and efficiency.

This character of petroleum, he explained, gives it a degree of comparative advantage over emerging energy alternatives for secured and stable energy supply.

He said, “I would like to sum up the future of energy in these words: ‘for the foreseeable future, we would continue to see a mix of all energy sources – coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables – in the supply equation. Whereas renewable sources will make steady in-roads in the global mix, oil and gas will be relevant in decades to come’.

“This conclusion is informed by the outcomes of market analysis and forecasts based on demand-supply equilibrium, socio-economic fundamentals, climate change and environmental considerations as well as technology and innovation that is shaping the dynamics of global outlook.

“However, we would not delude ourselves that change is not happening; we must continually re-invent the industry and find ways to improve the environmental credentials of oil and gas by deploying technologies for carbon reduction and management to maintain its acceptability as fuel.”

He insisted that Africa, other oil-producing countries and members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC), must be key stakeholders in global energy discourse and ensure their voices and views are well articulated in discussions about the future of oil and gas.

“Indeed, as Africans, it must take its destiny in its hand and rewrite history, by leveraging abundant human and natural resources which nature has bequeathed on this great continent to create wealth for its people, eliminate poverty, and improve social-economic conditions while driving value for the globe. Only Africa can grow Africa,” he noted.

On its part, Auwalu disclosed that Nigeria had risen to the occasion, and had started using its oil and gas resources to drive value for national development in the face of challenges posed by energy transition and global dynamics.

Specifically, he explained that the DPR was fostering innovative ideas and creating opportunities for investments and sustainability in the petroleum industry, especially most recently, through the establishment of the National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre(NOGEC).

NOGEC, the DPR chief executive noted, was designed as a one-stop shop to drive safety, cost efficiency and value for the Nigerian oil and gas industry.

In addition, he said the DPR identified the need to formulate the Maximum Economic Recovery(MER) Strategy for Nigeria to guarantee the actualisation of sustainable resource optimization and the economic benefits arising therefrom.

The framework of the MER, he explained, was hinged on six pillars, namely: reserves maturation and production optimization; exploration and resources maturation; improved oil recovery and enhanced oil recovery (IOR/EOR) implementation; asset stewardship; performance evaluation and rewards; and risk management.

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