Obama doesn't "begrudge" Dimon, Blankfein over pay

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:18pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he leaves an impromptu news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, February 9, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he leaves an impromptu news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, February 9, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said he doesn't begrudge the chief executives of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs their bonuses but called their pay "extraordinary."

In an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Obama also underscored his call for shareholders to have more of a say on executive pay.

Goldman, which reported a record profit for 2009, announced last week it would award CEO Lloyd Blankfein stock worth about $9 million. JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon is to receive a compensation package worth around $17 million.

"I know both those guys. They're very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That's part of the free market system," Obama said.

"I do think that the compensation packages that we've seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance," he added.

Obama said $17 million is "an extraordinary amount of money," though he noted some baseball players make more.

Obama has long supported legislation to give shareholders more of a voice in setting CEO pay.

"That serves as a restraint and helps align performance with pay," he said.

The White House has ratcheted up its criticism of Wall Street in recent weeks with a proposal to rein in banks' risky activities and a plan to force the firms to pay up to $117 billion to reimburse taxpayers for the bailout.

In December, Obama referred to Wall Street executives as "fat cats."

Later on Wednesday, the White House issued a blog post saying that Obama had not intended to brush off the impact of bonuses or applaud bankers and took issue with what it said was an "inaccurate portrayal" of the president's views on bonuses.

"The president has said countless times as he did in the interview that he doesn't 'begrudge' the success of Americans, but he also expressed 'shock' at the size of bonuses and made clear that there are a number of steps that need to be taken to change the culture of Wall Street," White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki wrote.

"He also made clear, as he has said many times before, that he believes bonuses should take the form of stock so that the compensation is tied to long-term performance," she said.

Psaki also dismissed the idea that Obama had shifted his tone concerning Wall Street. She pointed to several instances over the last year in which Obama has emphasized that he does not disparage wealth but wants to provide better ground rules for the financial system.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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Comments (6)
HilaryLo wrote:
Obama doesn’t begrudge them? Well I do! Me and all the other peons are surviving on beans and rice and these bankers call a $9,000,000 bonus “restraint”? I could live comfortably for 20 years on a million dollars. Who do these bankers think they are? They are thieving traitors and should be drawn and quartered, but that will never happen because they’re “well connected”. They’re from the handful of nepotistic privileged families, they attended the best colleges and they don’t have to “compete”. But you do. And you’ll be reminded of that even by other working-class people. Don’t get uppity! Just put your head down and work your a$$ off for less and less and less. The rich guys will do less and less for more and more. But you just better keep believing in the meritocracy. Keep believing everything is fine and that if you just work hard enough, someday your family will enjoy the freedom of economic security. Well I have a better idea: CHANGE YOUR MIND! We’ll never see freedom again without socialism for the PEOPLE. The world-over real democracy brings socialism because when the people have a say in how they’re governed, the don’t vote to impoverish themselves. If you think this is a democracy, you’re living in denial. Our candidates are pre-selected for us by the corporate oligarchy. The Obama campaign took $1,000,000 from Goldmann Sachs. No wonder he doesn’t begrudge them.

Feb 10, 2010 9:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
spat wrote:
The strength of the “free market system” is net job creation. In the last decade very few jobs have been created and yet the bankers’ compensation and bonuses have skyrocketed. Who are we kidding?

Feb 10, 2010 9:44pm EST  --  Report as abuse
releggneh wrote:
What a hypocrit?? Last month Obama was going after the banks to get our money back!! Now he says since it’s these banks, he has no problems with their bonuses?? Amazing> Watch out, you are going to make the banks mad and they will be contributing their money to anyone but you!!! I Hope. You really should take notes on your palm to make sure you keep track of what you are doing from day to day!!! I cannot wait until 2012,so we can rid of you as our president!!

Feb 10, 2010 9:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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