Published on
the NY Times

Obama Says He Doesn’t Begrudge Bank Executives’ Bonuses

Helene Cooper

President Obama channeled the anti-populist side of his character, telling Bloomberg/BusinessWeek in an interview on Tuesday that he didn't begrudge Wall Street executives their big bonuses.

Mr. Obama, responding to a question, termed the $17 million bonus awarded Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, or the $9 million that went to Lloyd Blankfein, the Goldman Sachs chief executive, as "extraordinary," but compared the amounts to what some athletes make. He said, "there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don't get to the World Series either, so I'm shocked by that as well."

"I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen," Mr. Obama said of Mr. Dimon and Mr. Blankfein. "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."

Mr. Obama has been straddling a divide, sometimes delivering a message that tries to project anger on behalf of American taxpayers, who don't like the idea of bonus money being doled out to the same executives whose institutions received federal bailout funds. At other
times, Mr. Obama has made an effort not to come across as anti-business, tempering his remarks when speaking directly to a business audience, as with the Bloomberg interview.

He also repeated his call for shareholders to have more of a say in executive compensation, which he said would serve to rein in bonuses, and would more align performance with pay.

In addition, Mr. Obama's remarks fall against the backdrop of new attacks by the Democratic National Committee against Republicans for wooing Wall Street donors at a time when the administration is pushing for financial regulatory reform through legislation in Congress.

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