The Congressional Oversight Panel criticized how the Treasury Department reviewed executive pay at companies that received assistance during the financial crisis, according to a report released Thursday. COP was appointed by Congress to oversee how money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program is being spent. When the program was created during the financial crisis of 2008, the Treasury put in place the Office of the Special Master to review how executives were being paid at seven institutions that received "exceptional assistance." These were American International Group (AIG), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Chrysler, Chrysler Financial, General Motors (GM) and Ally Financial (GJM). Compensation at these companies did fall an average of 55% for their 25 highest paid employees from 2008 to 2009, and the special master set up a model that limited cash compensation to $500,000 or less and required that for these employees, stock received as salary could be redeemed only over four years. "Our first rulings cut total pay in half and slashed cash compensation by 90%," said Tim Massad, Treasury acting assistant secretary for financial stability. The model put forth by the special master also limited incentive payments to one-third of the total compensation in an attempt to steer these companies away from guaranteed pay and toward stock-based compensation to deter executives from taking too much risk. But COP said in its report that the company payment plans approved by the special master were uniform despite the wide variations in the companies under review. "It is unclear whether one size truly fits all and whether the same redemption schedule for salary stock should apply to employees of an automotive company and employees of a large bank," according to the report. COP raised concerns that reviews over executive pay at these companies were contradictory. Congress mandated that the special master negotiate with any company the office found to being paying executives "contrary to public interest." But the special master found that no payments violated that interest. Yet, it labeled a total of $1.7 billion in payments as "disfavored" and "not necessarily appropriate," but took no action. But a Treasury official told HousingWire that TARP was never intended to produce "sweeping reforms" in executive compensation. The purpose of the "look back" review, which identified the $1.7 billion in payments "was to ensure that the government gets its money back," the official said. Other regulators, however, have "taken up the torch." The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. finalized a rule under Dodd-Frank that would require large banks to defer 50% of their incentive-based bonuses for three years. "The only scope we have to review executive compensation is while those companies still have TARP funds outstanding," the official said. While COP was troubled by the lack of information from the review for several reasons, Treasury has put the dollar amount these executives received on its website, but has left out names for privacy reasons. "We feel we've been incredibly transparent," the Treasury official said. COP concluded that the general public deserves to know how these executives are being paid, yet there are many open questions as to how officials are implementing rules written under Dodd-Frank to monitor compensation. In September 2010, Patricia Geoghegan took over as special master, and COP said she has the chance to take advantage of opportunities it said were missed by the previous office. "The Office of the Special Master and the Office of Internal Review have opportunities to incorporate lessons learned from the past two years," COP said. "As the new special master, Ms. Geoghegan has the opportunity to issue strong, thoughtful determinations for employees at the institutions she continues to supervise." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior