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Executive salary curbs may backfire, Bill Gates says

November 12, 2009|Reuters

NEW YORK — Bill Gates said Wednesday that Wall Street pay was "often too high" but warned against government efforts to limit executive salaries, saying experience showed they could backfire.

"I do think compensation is often too high, but it's a very tough problem to solve," Gates said at a discussion on philanthropy at the 92nd Street Y cultural and community center in Manhattan.

The billionaire Microsoft founder, who retired as the company's chief executive in 2008 to focus on philanthropy, said a 1993 U.S. law that sought to limit executive salaries instead contributed to huge pay packages.

The law, which barred companies from deducting from their taxable income any portion of an executive's salary above $1 million a year, merely led companies to give lucrative stock options as total compensation continued to skyrocket, Gates said.

U.S. officials are again pushing for Wall Street pay practices to be reformed to curb the excessive risk-taking widely blamed for the financial crisis.

High compensation at banks and other financial firms has ignited public anger at a time the U.S. jobless rate is at a 26-year high of 10.2%.

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