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GE Chief Opposes Salary Caps, Protectionism

Head of General Electric warned Thursday that capping bank executives’ salaries and ‘Buy America’ provisions in the federal stimulus bill undermine economic rescue efforts.

NEW YORK (AP) -- General Electric Co.'s chief executive warned Thursday that capping the salaries of bank executives whose companies take taxpayer bailout money undermines the government rescue effort.

Jeff Immelt, who has run the financial services, media and infrastructure conglomerate since 2001, also said "Buy America" provisions in the nearly $1 trillion federal stimulus bill jeopardizes U.S. exports.

"We're against the 'Buy America' clause," he said at a breakfast meeting. "It hurts trade and General Electric is a big net exporter. There is a danger of protectionism in this cycle."

Immelt's warning against executive salary caps came just hours after the administration issued a rule requiring banks that receive "exceptional assistance" from the government to cap salaries, including cash bonuses, at $500,000 for senior executives.

Under President Obama's rule, if those firms want to pay their executives more, they will have to use stock that couldn't be sold until the bank had repaid the bailout money. The rules apply only to the future, not to banks that have already received bailout money.

"It's in the best interests of taxpayers to have Jamie Dimon running JPMorgan," Immelt said. "They should want to have the best people on Earth running these banks. Capping pay is not conducive to that outcome."

In morning trading, GE shares fell 52 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $10.75.

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