The CEOs of bailed-out banks and financial companies saw their perks and benefits—ranging from private jet use and country club membership to free parking and bodyguards—rise even at the height of the crisis last year. On average, the CEOs of the 29 biggest companies that received federal money got $380,000 worth of perks in 2008, and for half of them, that was an increase over the year before. Meanwhile, non-financial CEOs had their perks cut by 7%.
At CIT, the troubled lender that fired 22% of its staff last year, the CEO gets more than $100,000 a year just for corporate jet travel. As a fraction of overall compensation, the perks are small change—but shareholders are growing angrier that they're paying for lavish lifestyles that seem to have little effect on the bottom line. "You would have thought that this would be the moment when everyone said, 'OK, the perks have got to stop—at least while we're indebted to the government,'" said one researcher. "But that didn't happen."