Last week, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., gave the bailout capital recipient firms until Nov 10 to come up with some darn good reasons to be paying themselves so much (PDF). Specifically, he requested detailed information on the total and average compensation per year from 2006 to 2008, the number of employees expected to be paid more than $500,000 in total compensation, and the total compensation projected for the top 10 executives.

Similarly, New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo demanded information about this year’s bonuses, including a detailed accounting of expected payments to top management and the size of the firms’ expected bonus pool before and after knowing that they would be recipients of taxpayer funds.

The deadline Cuomo set for receiving bonus records was Nov. 5. Predictably, the firms in question requested more time as the date approached — it takes a while to massage numbers, after all.

Meanwhile, they have been subtly releasing data to the media regarding how much lower bonuses will be this year, in order to combat inspection and criticism. This is Wall Street in its best defense mode, projecting an aura of accommodation and self-pity (because it’s shedding jobs, too), in order to maintain a status quo state of self-regulation.

House Financial Service Committee Chairman Barney Frank is holding his own oversight hearing on the matter next week, having announced that “any use of the these funds for any purpose other than lending — for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions, etc. — is a violation of the terms” of the bailout plan.

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