United States officials have cleared 10 of the country's biggest banks to pay back $US68 billion of taxpayer money given to them during the credit crisis.
The banks include JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and American Express Co.
Many banks had chafed at restrictions on pay that accompanied the capital injections from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
They will now be able to evade the Government curbs on executives' pay.
The announcement by the US Treasury Department begins to separate the stronger banks from weaker ones as the financial sector heals.
US President Barack Obama says the announcement is a small cause for hope in a difficult financial landscape.