US PRESIDENT Barack Obama last night lashed out at Wall Street bankers, labeling them “fat cats” who “don’t get it”.
Speaking on the eve of today’s meeting with top US bankers at the White House, Obama said he was frustrated with the banks that the government had bailed out.
“I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” Mr. Obama told CBS’s 60 Minutes.
“You guys are drawing down $10m, $20m bonuses after America went through the worst economic year in decades and you guys caused the problem,” he added.
The comments are likely to create a frosty atmosphere at today’s summit, where Obama will be canvassing the likes of Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, and Bank of America’s Ken Lewis about allowing more loans.
Government officials are frustrated by some banks’ continued payment of high bonuses and their reluctance to lend, while many Americans are struggling and out of work.
“Some people on Wall Street still don’t get it,” said Obama.
The harsh criticism follows the House of Representatives’ approval on Friday of sweeping legislation that would restrict the operations of big banks and the the Federal Reserve.
The bill aims to beef up financial regulation in the wake of last year’s banking crisis. But it may not be enacted if a similar set of rules is not also passed by the Senate.
The proposals would give the government power to:
•break up even healthy companies if regulators believe they pose a risk to the system
•collect $150bn in fees from the big financial institutions to create an insurance fund to pay for future large failures
•strip the Federal Reserve of nearly all its consumer protection laws
•audit the Fed’s monetary policy.
The bill gives shareholders an advisory vote on executive compensation and creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would write rules and check that banks were complying with consumer protection policies.