Briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 2/23/10:


Q    A question that I — on Wall Street bonuses.  The New York State Comptroller just released its report for 2009.  It says pay was up 17 percent over 2008.  The average taxable bonus on Wall Street rose to $123,850, and pay was probably even higher than that because it didn’t include deferred compensation or stock options.  First of all, any comment from the administration that has at least talked a lot and done some hard work to try to get these bonuses to go down instead of up?  And secondly, is the White House satisfied with regulators in Congress and what they’re doing to curb these bonuses?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, Chip, obviously you’ve heard the President on a number of occasions voice his frustration and outright shock at the pay practices of Wall Street at a time in which the American people were rushing directly to their financial aid to prevent a further collapse of the economy.

The President in the Recovery Act appointed Ken Feinberg to review the bonus and compensation structure of firms that had received extraordinary governmental assistance, and he’s pleased with the efforts that Ken has made thus far.  We pushed for in the House a provision providing shareholders with a say on executive pay that did pass the House and is certainly pending in the Senate.  And the President has long advocated that in lieu of cash, any bonus that is given ought to be given in long-term stock that does not, again, reward short-term risk taking, but rewards long-term success.  We’ve seen some progress on that front.  But, Chip, I think it’s safe to say that the President remains frustrated and believes that the compensation practices of Wall Street have a long way to go.

Q    And despite all his efforts it seems that they just kind of shrug off the criticism.  I mean, isn’t there something beyond frustration?  Isn’t there more he can do here?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, look, we have instituted important rules for the firms that directly received extraordinary assistance to keep them afloat.  I think the American people are equally outraged and shocked by what appears to be a carelessness about the way the people of this country — a carelessness about the way the people of this country loaned Wall Street money to ensure it didn’t collapse, all while Wall Street appears not to hear the outrage and the frustration each day on the pay practices that we’ve seen thus far.


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