General Motors, the world's largest automaker, has a bone to pick with the same U.S. government that bailed it out three years ago.
GM paid its CEO Dan Akerson $7.7 million in 2011, according to a regulatory filing cited by USA Today. But the company wanted to pay him more, and it took the opportunity Friday to call out government rules that continue to limit Akerson's pay.
The government bailed out GM in 2009 the wake of the financial crisis, giving the Treasury Department say over its executives' pay packages, according to CNNMoney. Though GM had a record-breaking year for profits in 2011, the government still holds about one-third of the company's stock, meaning that many of the bailout rules on compensation still apply.
The automaker argued that those "compensation restraints imposed" by the government are limiting GM’s ability to compete for talent, noting that Akerman's salary is less than that of corporate chiefs at comparable companies. Ford CEO Allan Mulally rose to nearly $30 million in 2011.
GM's move will no doubt further anger Republicans and Tea Partiers, who are already annoyed that the government invested $49.5 billion in the automaker to keep it from going under in 2009.
The U.S. still owns 500 million shares of GM and needs to make $25.5 billion when it sells those shares to recoup its investment.
Contrast GM's salary complaints with what's happening at Chrysler: That automaker has paid back most of its loans from the government, and the Treasury says it lost about $1.3 billion of the $12.5 billion in bailout money it took in 2009 to keep from going under. On Thursday, it posted its best earnings in 12 years.
And yet CEO Sergio Marchionne turned down a salary two years in a row.
Akerson's compensation likely won't rise next year. The Treasury Department announced earlier this month that it's freezing executive pay for GM, AIG and Ally Financial at 2011 levels, according to the Los Angeles Times. All three companies are still repaying government funds.
CEO pay has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks. A group of shareholders at Citigroup voted to reject the bank's executive pay package, which they viewed as unnecessarily large. Other banks have followed suit, with shareholders at Credit Suisse and Barclays expressing dismay with the pay packages at their banks too.