Barack Obama

Obama complains about "fat-cat bankers"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama complained about “fat-cat bankers” and sharply criticized Wall Street banks for paying out big bonuses to executives in a television interview to air on Sunday.

President Barack Obama speaks about the elections in Afghanistan from the White House in Washington August 21, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Obama, who has taken some heat from Americans for supporting a Wall Street bailout, told CBS’ “60 Minutes” banks do not understand how angry people are with them.

“I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” Obama said.

The president said it appeared the only firms paying out bonuses and avoiding the caps put on them under the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) were the ones who had paid back their bailout money.

“I think that in some cases (to be able to pay bonuses) was the motivation,” Obama said.

“Which I think tells me that the people on Wall Street still don’t get it. They’re still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down $10 (million), $20 million dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year in decades and you guys caused the problem,” he said.

Obama told “60 Minutes” it was wrong for financial industry lobbyists to try to derail a financial regulatory overhaul that passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Friday.

“What’s really frustrating me right now is that you’ve got these same banks who benefited from taxpayer assistance who are fighting tooth and nail with their lobbyists up on Capitol Hill, fighting against financial regulatory control,” he said.

After House passage of the financial overhaul, Obama issued a written statement in which he urged the Senate to join the House in passing what he called a necessary regulatory reform as quickly as possible.

“This legislation brings us another important step closer to necessary, comprehensive financial reform that will create clear rules of the road, consistent and systematic enforcement of those rules, and a stronger, more stable financial system with better protections for consumers and investors,” he said.

Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Todd Eastham