PARIS (AP) -- France's government on Wednesday promised to crackdown on bonuses and other executive payments if business leaders fail to curb excesses amid growing public anger over company bosses' pay.
Responding to outrage over the exit bonus paid to the former head of Valeo SA, an auto parts maker that received state aid, President Nicolas Sarkozy hit out at "dishonest" executives late Tuesday. He said there should be no more bonuses or stock options at companies that benefit from government help.
The controversy grew Wednesday with reports that brokerage company Cheuvreux, a unit of French bank Credit Agricole plans to hand over as much as euro51 million ($69 million) in bonuses for 2008. Credit Agricole took euro3 billion in a government bailout plan last year.
Henri Guaino, a top aide to Sarkozy, issued employers with "an ultimatum," saying in a radio interview Wednesday that the government will step in and legislate if France's main employers' federation, Medef, doesn't come up with proposals setting guidelines on executive pay by March 31.
Government spokesman Luc Chatel said Medef must make "significant progress."
Medef chief Laurence Parisot is expected to respond to Sarkozy with a letter of proposals due to be sent Wednesday evening.
"There shouldn't be any more bonuses, distribution of free shares or stock options in companies which get state aid" or who make large job cuts, Sarkozy said in a speech in the northern French town of Saint-Quentin late Tuesday.
Liberation newspaper reported Wednesday that Cheuvreux executives will get bonuses worth euro51 million even as the bank is cutting 75 posts. The bank declined to confirm the amount, but said 2008 bonuses will be paid. Job cuts are on a voluntary basis and concern 31 positions, the bank said.