WASHINGTON (AP) -- General Motors Co. CEO Fritz Henderson said Wednesday that government-imposed cuts to his own salary, and the pay of other executives at seven companies that received taxpayer money, were "fair" and "thoughtful."
Henderson was among executives who will see their base salaries slashed under a plan by Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration's "pay czar." Henderson, between meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said the changes were "tough, but the situation is tough."
Feinberg said last week he had ordered the seven companies to slash the base salaries of their top executives by an average of 90 percent and cut total compensation -- cash, stock and perks -- in half. GM and Chrysler are among the companies that received government funds.
Henderson's base salary was cut 30 percent to about $1.3 million earlier this year when GM accepted government loans. He received compensation valued at about $8.7 million in 2008, but much of it included stock and options now nearly worthless due to GM's bankruptcy filing.
Under Feinberg's plan, Henderson's compensation package is expected to be nearly $5.5 million, including a cash salary of $950,000. The bulk of his compensation will depend on the performance of GM's stock when it becomes a public company again.
"We're not public yet but we will be and if we do our job that stock is going to have real value," Henderson said. "We thought it was fair. We thought it was thoughtful."
Henderson said he had read the first-person account by former auto task force leader Steven Rattner in Fortune magazine. In the piece, Rattner was critical of GM's leadership prior to the bailout, citing "stunningly poor management" and a board of directors that was "utterly docile in the face of mounting evidence of a looming disaster."
"There was a lot of truth in it," Henderson told reporters. "You've got to take that to heart. You've got to internalize it and say, 'How do we change?' We went bankrupt. We've got to change."