Obama slams Wall Street companies over hefty bonuses

Written by Press Trust of India | Washington | Updated: Feb 1 2009, 05:23am hrs
US President Barack Obama has lashed out at the Wall Street companies for dolling out billions as bonuses to their top executives at a time when they are seeking bailout packages from the federal government.

An outrageous Obama termed it as shameful and height of irresponsibility, referring to a report which revealed that Wall Street gave out an estimated $18.4 billion in bonus to its top CEOs. Last years bonuses were the sixth-largest ever in a year, it said.

When I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $ 20 billion worth of bonuses -- the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 -- at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they dont provide help that the entire system could come down on top of our heads, that is the height of irresponsibility, Obama said.

Speaking to White House reporters with the treasury secretary, Timothy F Geithner, Obama said: It is shameful. The US President asked the Wall Street, who are asking for help, to show some restraint, show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility.

The American people understand that weve got a big hole that weve got to dig ourselves out of, but they dont like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as theyre being asked to fill it up, he said. Were going to be having conversations as this process moves forward directly with these folks on Wall Street to underscore that they have to start acting in a more responsible fashion if we are to, together, get this economy olling again, Obama said.

There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses, he said, adding that this is not the time now.

Thats a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect secretary Geithner to send to them, Obama said.

Such a strong statement from Obama comes a day after he met top CEOs of the country at the White House, during which he urged the corporate leadership for their responsibilities.