"He was poster child of excessive pay," said Elson. And the package he received when he left Home Depot helped to revive the movement to reform corporate governance and compensation.
Marston said he could only address Chrysler's arrangement with Nardelli and did not know if Nardelli receives any compensation, bonus or incentives from Cerberus for leading Chrysler.
Chrysler referred all questions about Nardelli's pay to Cerberus. Cerberus referred all calls back to Chrysler. Eventually, Cerberus told ABC News, "As a matter of policy, we do not disclose the compensation of the employees of our firm or our portfolio companies."
"You would think given concern around compensation and as gesture of goodwill, it would be a little more transparent about his compensation agreement," said Mark Borges, a compensation consultant with Compensia.
"In order to restore trust, we've got to make certain that taxpayer funds are not subsidizing excessive compensation packages on Wall Street," Obama said when he unveiled new regulations for executives who receive taxpayer dollars through the TARP. "We all need to take responsibility. And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves their customary lavish bonuses."
As lavish compensation, especially at financial firms, has become a central topic of complaint at the White House, on Capitol Hill and among voters, CEOs from several of the nation's largest banks were asked to disclose their salaries and bonuses before Congress.
Similar questions have not been put to Nardelli. Calls to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., have gone unreturned. A spokesperson for the ranking Republican on the committee who opposed the initial financial rescue plan, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala, said the senator has not looked into the subject. The Treasury Department is looking further into the issue.
In the recently passed stimulus legislation, Dodd championed a provision that imposes strict rules for executive compensation for institutions receiving federal funding through the TARP including "golden parachutes." While public companies have to file documents proving compliance with these rules with the Securities and Exchange Commission, private companies like Chrysler will have to certify they are in compliance with the Treasury Department.
"I don't think Chrylser is immune to those things, but there is no independent way for the public to verify its compliance with those rules," said compensation consultant Borges.
On its Web site, Cerberus describes itself as "providing both financial resources and operational expertise to help transform undervalued companies into industry leaders for long-term success and value creation."
A few months after Cerberus announced it would buy the third-largest domestic automaker, its chairman, John Snow, spoke in Washington.
"Over 25 years ago, when Chrysler faced bankruptcy, it turned to the United States government for assistance. Today, Chrysler again faces new financial challenges. But it is private investment [Cerberus] stepping in to inject much-needed support. That speaks volumes for the transformation of our economy."