January 29th, 2009
04:32 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama blasts bonuses for struggling Wall Street

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/29/art.obamageithner0129.gi.jpg caption="President Obama rebuked Wall Street Thursday during a meeting with new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama called the prospect that some of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout could end up paying for bonuses to managers of struggling financial institutions "shameful" Thursday.

Watch: Pres. Obama takes Wall St. to task

New York's state comptroller raised that prospect in a Wednesday report that found the bonus pool for the financial industry is still the sixth-biggest on record despite a 44 percent decline from 2007. Speaking after a meeting with his top economic advisers, Obama said it was the "height of irresponsibility" for executives to pay bonuses when their companies are asking for help from Washington.

"The American people understand we've got a big hole that we've got to dig ourselves out of, but they don't like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they're being asked to fill it up," he said.

"There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses. Now is not that time," Obama added.

The president's latest concerns come two days after struggling banking giant Citigroup - which has taken about $45 billion from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program - reversed plans to accept delivery of a new $42 million corporate jet under Treasury Department prodding.

"We shouldn't have to do that, because they should know better - and we will continue to send that message loud and clear," Obama said.

The bailout program restricted bonuses for top executives of firms that received federal funds. But New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's report Wednesday noted that the program does not limit bonuses for lower-level staff.

"There needs to be greater transparency and accountability in the use of these funds," DiNapoli said in a statement accompanying his report. "Every dime counts, especially when they're taxpayer dimes, and taxpayers ought to know if
these funds were used to buy corporate jets, pay dividends or bonuses."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president had a one-word response to DiNapoli's report: "Outrageous." Asked whether the administration
could take any action to head off those bonuses, Gibbs said, "That's what we're
looking into, and that's what we're working on recommendations for."

Obama's remarks came after a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other members of his economic team.

Filed under: Economy • President Obama • Tim Geithner
soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    I respect Pres. Obama and his cabinet a lot but they have got to actually DO something to the CEO's and other bonus takers out there. Perhaps the greedy, stupid bankers and investment people who created this mess didn't vote for Pres. Obama and maybe they are not too worried that he called their behavior "outrageous". Until there is actual punishment, which should involve loss of their jobs and lots of public shame, they will continue to thumb their noses.

    January 29, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  2. kelly WI

    Fear monger. Scare tactics.
    We were lied to. This is NOT a stimulist bill. It IS a spending bill.
    Just wait until you have to pay for it.
    Just wait until they do the budget bill. It will be another trillion debt.
    Just wait until inflation kick in.
    The herd mentality is as stupid as usual.

    January 29, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  3. lucy


    January 29, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    January 29, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. Answer

    To: Timing is Everything

    Notice: He's only been in office for one week. So, the notion that he waited to long to address the shamefullness of the Bankers bonuses is absurd. Give him a chance.

    January 29, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. Practice what you preach, Mr. President

    Yes, the President is correct about this matter; however, if he isn't going to also make an example of Geithner (pictured in this article too) for his shameless behavior (not paying $34,000 in taxes he owed while on the government's payroll) then it is hypocrisy on the President's part.

    Appointing this corrupt official is worse than what Wall street did...because he says he knows such behavior is wrong, but he is allowing someone to get away with it...and entrusting that person with governmental fund oversight...just because he wants him for a White House position. Hypocrisy...hypocrisy...hypocrisy!

    January 29, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  7. Congress is Dumb

    I am surprised that Congress was not knowledgible enough to know of this practice on Wall Street.

    I'm not a Wall Streeter ( I am an engineer with an MBA from Columbia) and I knew that left to their own devices, billion$ of would be paid out.

    It is inexcusable that Congress and President Bush gave them money and did not prevent them from using it on themselves in this way.

    It is also inexcusable that Congress allowed them to take the money without a requirement that they lend it back out.

    January 29, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. PCS / North Carolina

    Cut the CEO's, Directors pay, so it would be on par or below the Presidents salary. These Idiots rundown their companies, fire employees, and what do they get in return ? Bonuses and golden parachutes. CITI’s directors are making 250,000$ for a part time job, after they have taken in 50 billion dollars tax payers money. !!

    January 29, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  9. Mike

    How about NO MORE BAILOUT money for those blood suckers. The time has come for the Congress and President to let them fail.

    January 29, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  10. Susanne Sklar

    Thousands of financial professionals are unemployed.

    Why can't the government HIRE them to audit the bailout? All those findings should be put online –as should the NAMES of those receiving large bonuses.

    Those who are losing their homes could then go and live in the guest rooms of those who are being unfairly rewarded.

    January 29, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  11. Dr Mary

    It is for this reason that the Republican call for a stimulus package with less spending and more tax "relief" for corporations will not work. Jobs will be created when there is a demand for employees. There won't be a demand for employees under there are sales. There won't be sales under there are jobs. But there won't be jobs until there is a demand for employees. Ergo, get people working by govt. spending that will generate demand for employees in the public and private sector. Throwing money to large corporations does NOT create jobs if their products DON'T SELL!

    At the same time, reducing the pressure on small businesses with some tax incentives AND govt contracts for goods and services will allow them to survive and not have to fire employees.

    January 29, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  12. Mary

    Bonuses for the big wigs who's base salary is over $150K shouldn't happen. That is completely wrong. However some of these bonuses could have been paid to Regular everyday Joe's who work hard at thier jobs and these "bonus" were part of the wage packages.

    My husband works for a bank and his base salary isn't much because he gets paid based on his production and that is paid via "bonus" each month. They call it bonus not commission which is what it really is.

    January 29, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  13. Meg

    Do you know why they need to give a bonus to the lower level staff? Because they are paying them $60,000 (which is nothing in NYC) to work 100 hours a week for 2 years. Those banks make so many promises to our nation's most talented graduates (most of whom are now unemployed after 6 months of work) and then just use them for slave labor until bonuses come out in the summer. It is truly disgusting.

    January 29, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  14. Marie

    Lynn are you listening to yourself how stupid you sound..and what does President Obama campaign donations have to due with Wall Street greed. Those CEO'S on Wall Street stole your taxes and laughed at you all the way to the bank.It won't be until you lose your job or home before reality hits you girlfriend and when it does see if you can look up one of those CEO'S and ask them for help since President Obama campaign donations seems to be of more importance than their theft.Right now the american people have more to worry about like the ECONOMY and people losing their JOBS... so please go find a life because it sounds like you don't have one

    January 29, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. DavidinCA

    See how awkward it is when our government tries to get this involved in private companies? It didn't go any better with the auto companies.
    The Chinese are pretty good at it, but that's a communist economy. Let's not go there, huh? I still have faith in capitalism.

    January 29, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  16. Sophia Beck

    Tim was not in office at that time. Bush never spoke words of accountability in his 8 years and that is why we are in the mess we are in. The Bush administration left us high and dry. At least Obama is trying to be honest and keep things real-

    January 29, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  17. Transparency?

    Hey LIKIYE, you said: Transparency and accountability is all what President Obama has been preaching for months now.

    Yeah, it is easy to talk the talk but he sure ain't walking the walk...look at Geithner...one rule for him and Obama (hey, bud you don't have to worry that you chose not to pay that $34,000 to the IRS...I'll hire you anyway...and you can run our government money for us too!), but a different rule for others: ETHICS, ETHICS, ETHICS.

    Mr. Clean ain't so clean in my book!

    January 29, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  18. Tom D

    Sameful?? cant you come up with something better than that Obama after all you did vote for the bail out package when you were still in congress........

    January 29, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  19. CK4NYSenate2010

    "I would like to know the Political Party affiliations of the bonus recipients. "

    One of them is the wife of house minority whip eric cantor. one of the guys who voted against the stimulus package that would have helped average amricans, but voted for tarp so his wife and her company could get a sweeheart deal... see you're not too far off

    January 29, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  20. Iain Rapson

    Several issues that result in a break open with the pipe joints is due to your buildup of force that may be occasioned by the increasing ice that may be forming within the water lines.water damage

    January 13, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
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