WASHINGTON—Securities and Exchange Commission officials are calling it the strictest regulatory reform since the Great Depression: CEOs of major financial institutions will now be required to humbly shrug and smile sheepishly before accepting huge salary bonuses.
The new regulation, SEC rule 206(b)-7, will reportedly target Wall Street executives who accept disgustingly bloated annual payouts, forcing them to raise and then lower their shoulders in a manner that conveys a mild degree of humility or a sense of "Aw, shucks. Who? Me?"
"This sweeping new reform sends a clear message to fat-cat CEOs at firms like Goldman Sachs and AIG," SEC chair Mary Schapiro said Monday. "Never again will they be able to receive massive bonuses unless, at a minimum, they flash a gee-I-don't-think-I-should expression and say something like 'Well, all right, but only if you insist' first."
"Mark my words," she continued, "The days of greedy, out-of-touch executives pocketing outrageous $40 million bonuses without acting slightly embarrassed about it are over."
The crackdown comes on the heels of Wall Street's 2010 bonus season, during which not one executive was observed to look at the floor meekly, sink his hands into his pockets, or dig his right toe awkwardly into the ground before taking his cut of the estimated $55 billion in payouts.
The SEC rule stipulates that CEOs set to receive bonuses between $1 and $5 million will be required to raise their eyebrows in feigned surprise. Those who make between $5 and $10 million will have to smile uncomfortably and say, "Yikes, that's a whole lot of simoleons," while executives receiving more than seven figures must now audibly stammer, "It's, you know, I mean, ha! What are you gonna do, you know?" before having the funds wired directly to an offshore bank account.
CEOs making more than $50 million are legally obligated to just shut the fuck up and get the hell out of everyone's face already.
"Main Street is finally getting the payback it deserves," Tea Party activist Mark Williams said in response to the new policy. "Finally we'll have the satisfaction of watching these guys nervously whistle and tap their fingers on an armchair before taking billions and billions of dollars from the struggling taxpayers who made it all possible."
The SEC claims the regulation will assure Americans who lost their homes and jobs during the 2008 economic collapse that CEOs who take advantage of the public will answer for their actions, whether by scratching awkwardly behind their ear, or uttering, "Yeah, I don't know what to tell you. Is it hot in here?"
Executives found to be in violation of the new rule will be expected to apologize to the SEC within eight months of the failed shrug, pending appeals. Overly comical shoulder shrugs clearly intended to mock the new regulation will result in a $500 tax-deductible fine.
Still, legislators on both sides of the aisle have registered strong disagreements.
"This doesn't go nearly far enough," Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said. "Nowhere in the rule does it say that executives must maintain the shrugging pose and move their hands in an up-and-down motion so as to suggest they are weighing the cost and benefit of taking the bonus. How can we truly end Wall Street excess without that in the rule?"
"This is just another example of big government meddling with the free market," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said. "I agree CEOs should have to shrug, but dictating that the shoulders must rise at least 2 inches from a resting position is the kind of overbearing regulation that suffocates enterprise and discourages investment in America."
Addressing reporters Monday, President Obama praised the SEC's rule change, but said the regulatory body must now set stronger limits on how bankers act after they receive their bonuses.
"Making them shrug is one thing," Obama said, "but stopping their shameful practice of pumping their fists, high-fiving everyone in the office, and shouting 'cha-ching' immediately afterward is quite another."