ThinkFast: October 22, 2009

Morgan Stanley

Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s special paymaster, will order firms that received a government bailout to “slash compensation to their highest-paid employees.” He will also demand “a host of corporate governance changes at those firms.” One bank executive complained that the compensation restrictions “were clearly much worse than what had been anticipated.”

“Some of the biggest Wall Street firms are back in the political-spending game after hunkering down while they were getting government bailout funds,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Companies such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley stopped making donations while they were receiving federal dollars, but now they have stepped up their contributions and lobbying spending.

Interest groups have spent $263.6 million lobbying on health care so far, a “record year for healthcare lobbying revenue.” If major reform passes, “K Street looks like a winner” as “lobbyists for healthcare industries will be plenty busy trying to influence the implementation of the bill” for years to come.

The inspector general for the TARP program, Neil Barofsky, told CNN yesterday that “the banking system today may be in a more precarious position than it was a year ago.” “These banks that were too big to fail are now bigger,” Barofsky said. “Potentially we could be in more danger now than we were a year ago.”

Afghanistan experts fear that the upcoming election run-off in Afghanistan may inflame ethnic divisions. “Afghanistan will be divided into two parts…when we go for a second round,” said Waheed Mojdah, an Afghan analyst. “Basically, this election is between Pashtuns and Tajiks and will clearly show which of these ethnicities is the most powerful.”

Iranian negotiators have “agreed to ship about three-quarters of its known stockpile of nuclear fuel to Russia for conversion into a form it could use only in a peaceful nuclear reactor.” If leadership in Tehran agrees, “it will remove enough nuclear fuel from Iran to delay any work on a nuclear weapon until the country can replenish its stockpile of fuel, estimated to require about one year.”

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, created by Congress in 2007, said yesterday in an interim report that the U.S. is failing to address the threat of bioterrorism and has “underfunded efforts to develop vaccines and drugs and have not named a high-level National Security Council appointee to improve biodefenses.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will stress the need for colleges to better prepare teachers for jobs in elementary and secondary classrooms today in a speech at Columbia University. “Many, if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” Duncan said in remarks to be delivered.

AT&T is “pulling out all the stops with a lobbying blitz ahead of a critical vote” on net neutrality at the FCC today. The giant phone company “intensified its efforts to derail” the vote “by launching a letter-writing campaign from company employees, as well as from community organizations, state officials and minority groups.” AT&T sent employees a memo “encouraging them to get friends and family to send e-mails objecting to the proposal.”

And finally: MoveOn.org has a new ad showing actress Heather Graham as the public option, forcing lazy, bloated private insurance companies to get back in the race and compete. Watch it here.

Follow ThinkProgress on Twitter.