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Tighter squeeze on bank pay

Published:Friday | January 29, 2010 | 12:00 AM

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a broad riposte to excess, told a room full of international bankers and CEOs just what they did not want to hear: Brace for bonus curbs, tighter banking regulations and new bookkeeping rules.

It was a brazen posture for the World Economic Forum, a gathering of business and political elite at a Swiss ski resort that in many ways embodies the globalised economy.

Many in Wednesday's crowd - including those whose companies are starting to recover after a crushing year - bristled at Sarkozy's keynote speech, calling it simplistic and populist.

Indeed, it echoed rallying cries of workers from the United States to Europe and Asia. And it was prescient, coming just hours before President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address, where he addressed reforming Wall Street.

"There are remuneration packages that will no longer be tolerated because they bear no relationship to merit," Sarkozy said, calling it "morally indefensible" when companies that "contribute to destroying jobs and wealth also earn a lot of money".

The comment drew a lone clap, while the rest of the hall stayed silent.

- AP