We wanted to clear up some confusion about where the President stands on bonuses and excessive executive compensation. A recent headline from an interview the President did with Bloomberg yesterday inaccurately made it sound like the President brushed off the impact of bonuses and applauded the role of bankers. This naturally came as a surprise to the many people who share his outrage at the behavior that continues on Wall Street and is not an accurate portrayal of where the President stands or what he said during the interview.
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. A sentiment he has consistently expressed since long before he took office.
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. His focus from day one has been on signing into law a comprehensive financial reform package that reins in the abuses on Wall Street, addresses Too Big to Fail, imposes real oversight and strict accountability on financial companies, prevents predatory lending practices, ensures that consumers get clear information and imposes a fee on the biggest banks to ensure they pay back every dollar of money owed to the taxpayers.
So let’s break this down:
What did the President actually say during the interview?
“I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That's part of the free market system. I do think that the compensation packages that we've seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance. I think that shareholders oftentimes have not had any significant say in the pay structures for CEOs.”
When asked whether seventeen million dollars is a lot for Main Street to stomach, he expressed shock at the size of the compensation and called for the same actions that are a part of the comprehensive financial reform proposal that has been working its way through Congress:
“Listen, $17 million is an extraordinary amount of money. Of course, there are some baseball players who are making more than that who don't get to the World Series either. So I'm shocked by that as well. I guess the main principle we want to promote is a simple principle of "say on pay," that shareholders have a chance to actually scrutinize what CEOs are getting paid. And I think that serves as a restraint and helps align performance with pay. The other thing we do think is the more that pay comes in the form of stock that requires proven performance over a certain period of time as opposed to quarterly earnings is a fairer way of measuring CEOs' success and ultimately will make the performance of American businesses better.”
And what has the President said about this same topic over the course of the last year?
Jen Psaki is Deputy Communications Director