Obama getting tough on ‘Wall Street idiots’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : A day after President Barack Obama bashed bailed-out banks for giving huge bonuses, the White House pledged action against such “irresponsible” behaviour and a Democratic senator proposed capping executive salaries at companies accepting government funds.

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“We must have our financial institutions survive but not with a culture that thinks it’s all right to kick the taxpayer in the shins,” Senator Claire McCaskill said proposing a law that would prevent executives from making more than the $400,000 salary of the US president.

“I am mad,” McCaskill said in an angry speech on the senate floor. “We have bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer. … They don’t get it!”

Top executives at the biggest financial services firms often collect tens of millions of dollars in compensation. Citigroup’s Indian American CEO Vikram Pandit was paid $216 million for taking over as chief executive of the bank in 2007.

Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis made more than $20 million in 2007, according to Forbes. Over the past year, the two banks have collected more than $50 billion in government funds from the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve.

Citigroup, which also intended to purchase a private jet, cancelled the order following a public outcry over reports of corporate excess by companies getting bailout funds.

The bill follows some tough words by Obama, who said Thursday that it was “shameful” for financial executives to walk away with $18.4 billion in bonuses last year.

McCaskill, an early endorser of President Barack Obama’s candidacy, said an average of $2.6 million dollars had been paid in bonuses to executives from the first 116 banks that got money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP).

At the White House, Obama spokesman said the president’s upcoming plan for financial stability also would address executive compensation and bonuses.

“I think you will see the president and his economic team outline a plan to deal with what he found irresponsible yesterday,” Robert Gibbs told reporters. “Stay tuned, because something on that is coming soon.” He declined to say more.