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January 29th, 2009
08:54 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Greedy Wall Street

President Obama rebuked Wall Street Thursday during a meeting with new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

President Obama rebuked Wall Street Thursday during a meeting with new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

This will get your blood boiling: a new report shows that Wall Street firms handed out $18.4 billion in bonuses last year as companies were seeking government bailouts. OK, sure, that's a 44% drop from 2007, but it's still the sixth-biggest on record.

President Obama calls the payouts "shameful." "There will be a time for them to make profits, and there will be a time for them to get bonuses. Now is not that time," he added.

That tough talk is being back up with some tough action.

Tonight we've learned President Obama is planning next week to unveil a plan to help fix the financial system that will include a crackdown on Wall Street bonuses, according to two senior administration officials. CNN's Ed Henry will have the details from the White House.

What would like to see in the bailout crackdown plan? Share your thoughts below.

We're also following now private citizen Rod Blagojevich. He's been ousted as the governor of Illinois in a state Senate vote of 59-0. A unanimous decision. He's not staying quiet. A little bit after the vote Blagojevich spoke to reporters outside his Chicago home. "The fix was in from the very beginning," he said.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn gets to change his business card. The 60-year-old tax attorney is now the Governor. We'll have the latest developments on the wild day in Illinois politics.

Join us for these stories and more starting at 10pm ET.


Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Tracy

    500,000??? Wow...what I could do with that kind of money. It's everything I can do to keep propane in my tank just to heat my home for my 3 year old child. These people need to look up the word humility in the dictionary. Their worried about jets and the common folk is just trying to put food on the table. Where is our bailout?

    February 4, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  2. David

    I am a bill collector for Wells Fargo. I make $12 an hour and work overtime to make ends meet, sometime 12-13 hours a day. I was nominated by my peers last year to be 1 of 100 people to go to Disney World at the end of February for my exceptional performance. Wells Fargo did not "take" bailout money, they were forced to by the federal government. This trip has already been paid for by Wells Fargo last year before any money had ever changed hands. It is not being paid for by taxpayer money. Because of the negative media, this trip that I have so much been looking forward to for all of my hard work has now been cancelled. All of the services on the trip including the flight and hotel room are non-refundable. So, these rooms and plane seats wil remain empty even though they have already been paid for. It disappoints me that the media is telling everyone that these trips are luxurious golfing vacations for CEO's and executives when really the 100 people who were supposed to go on this trip are little guys like me making $12 an hour. Get the facts straight, then report.

    February 4, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  3. Leslie

    Where is the outrage from the Republican members of Congress! How silent they seem to be on this and many other issues regarding this financial mess. Rewards should not go to those who have not earned it - as the poor perfomances seem to bear out. I am increasingly shocked that members of Congress seem paralyzed by what is happening with our economy. Some days I wonder if this is because they are guaranteed a pension that is handsome and medical benefits for life... how nice for them.

    January 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  4. Tom Warson

    The $40-million airplane incident said everything everybody needed to know and always suspected. Throwing money at weasels in tweed suits has not and will not solve the current economic crisis.

    What will?

    The creation of a federal lending authority, completely independent of private lending institutions, to supply credit to qualified borrowers is the only way to make sure that taxpayers money will get where it needs to go.

    January 30, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  5. Dana

    What has happened to common sense? Bonuses should be given for a job well done and should be based on a percentage of net profit. No profits, no bonuses. It is that simple.

    The government (ie the people) should have the right to say no to paying bonuses from taxpayer money when obviously these people have not been doing a good job. If they were then we would not be where we are today.

    January 30, 2009 at 10:15 am |
  6. james

    I read this nice story in Hartford Courant. It begs national coverage in these times.

    I gives a morale boost to lot of people when they hear about corporate greed and news about paying themselves 20 Billion on bonuses.

    Government agencies can do much better jobs if more people get on board. Here is a very good start and there cannot be a better time !

    Please follow the link below:

    http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-furlough.art.artjan30,0,1503190.story

    January 30, 2009 at 10:13 am |
  7. Mike in NYC

    Easy, folks. When you keep your outrage on tap, it's easy to flood the house before you think clearly.

    Not all, or even most, of the recipients of these bonuses are wealthy. Here in NYC, we've got 100,000 people or so working in financial services, and these payments are a large part of their compensation. They've got bills to pay just like everyone else.

    This is just grandstanding on BO's part, and a pretty shameful bit at that.

    January 30, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  8. Patrick from Bäle

    The problem is that it's business-as-usual + bailout money. Financial institutions and, realistically now, and a flawed economic ideology helped get us into this crisis and these institutions need to be enlisted, more appropriatly mandated, with input and cooperation from government, labor and the consumer to help get us out. All avenues of human activity, economic, political and social need to be envolved in the solutions to this national and world crisis. America can lead in this effort , after all it has been accused, and rightly so, as being the 'primary mover and shaker' in precipitating this crisis, but also, it has the constitution, the infrastructure, the idealism and the where-with-all to get us out. We have an opportunity to "reinvent the wheel," the "wheel of fortune," so to speak, and economic, political, and social justice–human values, are the keys that will inspire the solutions to this crisis. It's clear or is it our destiny to "fog" it up.

    January 30, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  9. Kenneth from Washington, DC

    This question is for Wall Street executives from all industries who pay bonuses to "top talent" to keep them from going to other companies.

    How much "talent" do you need to run a company into a financial crisis bad enough to ask the federal government for a bailout?

    January 30, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  10. Al

    I doubt your very own Sanjay Gupta MD, will ever earn anything close to what these bankers made (in salary or bonuses) as a neurosurgeon. Yet he performs a function infinitely more valuable (it's obviously hard to enjoy money if you're dead).
    The argument made by Wall St that high salaries are required to attract the best talent is obviously flawed. Salaried academics at US universities earn a comparable pittance but I would bet they possess much higher IQs/SATs/GPAs than anyone on Wall St. You can get very bright people for much less.
    We should ensure the salaries/bonuses of Wall St Bankers/financiers/hedge fund managers etc are comparable with salaried academic physicians. Wall St would probably argue such a system is socialist. However, since it would reduce cost (and therefore increase profit) it would actually represent pure free-market economics at its best. It woud also remove the profit-incentive for taking outrageous risks. Wall St would still be able to attract very bright people...like Dr. Gupta...

    January 30, 2009 at 2:37 am |
  11. Jay (Arkansas)

    This Stimulus & Bailout/Tarp plan is becoming a big joke. I have and had High hopes for President Obama, but it's starting to seem like he is out of touch with the taxpayers need. Why keep giving our money to people who don't need it. Nothing they have on the list will stimulate the economy. Yes the talk is good, and good talk is not helping the taxpayers or saving jobs.

    January 30, 2009 at 2:21 am |
  12. Brenda D

    Every day since January 20th I have woke up with a big smile on my face....YES WE DID! I realize we have a long long way to go but President Obama, everyday I watch CNN I get a better feeling about America...
    We need to keep digging deeper on Wall Street, the audacity of them taking millions for bonuses , I mean, how do those people sleep at nite? I bet if you dug even deeper you might find some indictments in that hole! What about the Banks????????? We need justice here!

    January 30, 2009 at 2:17 am |
  13. Margie

    I don't know why we don't just call this Wall Street Handout what it really is-Corporate Welfare. When We, the people, cannot find jobs, have lost our jobs, or otherwise have a financial meltdown and we turn to the government for help, they don't call it a "bailout", they call it welfare. Many Americans are ashamed to have had to turn to welfare, but because of the irresponsibility of the finance and banking sectors, billions of jobs have been lost, and there are zero jobs to be had. So I believe that Wall Street should be forced to follow the same rules as the people on Main Street. You know, the ones who pay our taxes to bail them out. On welfare you will only receive enough money to pay one of your bills per month, nowhere near enough money to pay your house payment, so you will go into foreclosure. Nobody will help you with this problem, because we gave the banks enough money to buy up other banks, so they can now take the financial hit of millions of defaulted loans. On welfare, you are required to spend 30 hours a week looking for a job, but as there are none to be found, good luck with that. You are only allowed to be financially insolvent for approximately 2 years in a lifetime, and you must meet with an employment counselor monthly only to be told that there are no jobs, but you will be cut off if you don't find one soon. No self respecting human wants a hand out. We want to work, and yet there are no jobs, and these corporate fat cats cannot do without bonuses larger than most middle class americans make in a lifetime. They should be brought up on criminal fraud charges. What they received, and are asking for more of is not a "bailout" it is a handout. Even welfare has rules and oversight. Where are theirs?

    January 30, 2009 at 2:06 am |
  14. Erin

    I was not an Obama supporter, however, I dont think I have ever been more proud of any President than when I saw how genuinely angry he was when discussing the misuse of government funds for corporate bonuses, etc. Wow...it almost brought me to tears. FINALLY it seems like there is a politician out there who really feels the same way I do about this! He is slowly turning me into a supporter – never thought it'd happen!

    January 30, 2009 at 1:39 am |
  15. Alberto Bonini

    It appears that CEO's and related executives live in a bubble of their own. Are these individuals in touch with what is really happening with the people in the trenches during these difficult economic times? Based on their self-appointed bonuses and other spending habits, which appear to continue unrelentlessly, it would seem that they are not. It seems that they live by a different set of rules than those which the average public have to live by when it comes to finances and economics.
    It is time for them to get a reality check and come down a few notches so they can feel the pain like the rest of us are.

    January 30, 2009 at 1:19 am |
  16. Colleen

    What do I think of this???
    Dispicable!
    President Obama should not only curtail these bonuses... My pipe dream is that he'll demand all of the money back. I can barely stomach much more of this.

    January 30, 2009 at 1:17 am |
  17. Gay McArthur

    new rules. if you were the cause of the problem you shouldn't be part of the solution.

    January 30, 2009 at 12:57 am |
  18. Armando Ponce de Leon Diaz

    GREED! is the name of our recent past starting from the TOP.
    It is as shameful as it is sad.

    January 30, 2009 at 12:38 am |
  19. John Miller

    Here is the problem. These companies are not private they are public by virtue of their size and the fact that their stock is publicly traded. They are stealing from the stock holders and in this case, the Nation. It is abominable. Most of these guys should be removed from their positions. More importantly, to stop the greed and lack of ethics, pay and bonuses should be based on profitability and capitalization. There should be maximums set. These 'leaders' only care about themselves and how much money they can steal from the stock holders.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:52 pm |
  20. Willie Hightower - Easton, PA

    America the wall street executives who got those bonuses should be ashamed, even indited of impersonating Americans. These kinds of wall street abuses are comparable to 9/11. Companies that choose to lay off workers after years of record profits should use those profit to sustain their employees to weather this economic storm. They act distastefully UNAMERICAN.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  21. David Poole from Burlington, Ontario, Can.

    Since the American Public now have what amounts to an ownership interest in the major banks and financial institutions, why not make it law that the Treasury Secretary hold a seat on their respective Boards, and be empowered to make public any actions taken by the Boards which are of a compersation nature relative to senior executives. Thanks.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  22. Kathy A.

    The CEO's awarding themselves these huge bonuses . . . sounds as though they have intentionlly defrauded the US government.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  23. Melody

    First
    If you go to a bank for money they want to know what your going to do with the money. Why can’t the President have say in what they are doing with our money?
    Second
    He said he would reach out across the aisle, if they don’t reach back what would you have him do? Are they not responsible at all?

    January 29, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  24. Eric F

    We are asking the wall st companies to give up something while they feast at the government trough, but yet families have been on public funded welfare for years and yet ask them to give up nothing.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  25. Pacific Northwest

    Years ago there were luxury taxes. The rich paid up around 50%. Let the people making the big money go back to paying taxes as before bushed. Then double them. You have to have the money going around in a circle in the US. Poor have to spend to survive. Rich save and spend on luxury, tax that luxury. Let yacht builders build smaller boats.

    Rich peoples taxes are payed on profits from investments. For the richer increase these taxes.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  26. Joe

    I realize that I am coming into this story late, but has anyone proven that the bonuses were given to CEO's of companys that actaully took the bailout money? Not all companies took bailout money. If they did then I agree they shouldn't be giving bonuses. If they are private companies using their own money a bonus might be another story.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  27. yvonne

    President Obama,
    we are hungry.
    send in the military to wall street and get our money back. put them on a ice chip in alaska and let it drift away.
    thank you

    January 29, 2009 at 11:29 pm |
  28. Michael - Stonewall, CO

    I'd like to see the name of every Wall Street exec and their bonus published on CNN. They should let the pubic vote with their business feet on whether they agree with those bonuses.

    I like the model encouraged by the Sïngapore gov't. When a company prospers, everyone top-to-bottom gets a percentage-based bonus. When a company suffers, everyone top-to-bottom gets percentage-based cut.

    Surely Amercan execs can do something fair like this, or better!

    Michael – Stonewall, CO

    January 29, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  29. Bobby Mack

    Its a good thing the President is extending unemployment payments because the way He and the media are Bashing General Aviation(private Jets), many high paying job will be lost over the hype. This is a large industry here in America.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  30. marietta bernstorff

    We are in real trouble financially in the world and for the republicans not to help this new president who is trying to do something for us all as well as for the world, is really making me see what happened these sad past 8 years with Bush. Also giving money to the arts, climate, Amtrack come on its great lots of people work in those areas they are areas that most of us like! Please don't use the word liberal for any politicians or any other terms they are just guys doing their job and some are greedy like the wall street guys and some are not we hope this new group is not because the last one was very greedy.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  31. Kathy A.

    Those Wall Street Ceo's who awarded themselves those outrageous bonuses should have to return the money to the US government.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  32. Lynn Wilson

    I don't understand why we shareholders aren't expressing our own opinion about these bonuses, instead of relying on Washington to do so. I fear that we may have forgotten our power in this process. Let us vote with our proxies and tell the companies in which we hold shares what we will and won't stand for. and with enough votes and outcry we will get their attention! And we shouldn't forget to contact the major pension funds and other entities that hold major stakes in corporate America. We should let them know how Main Street expect them to vote on such matters.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  33. yvonne

    take their passports, put a ankle bracelet on them, let them wait in a holding cell until they white house adds them onto a schedule to workout this mess. put an amber alert out to the other countries so that they have no place to fly. more importantly, freeze their assets. send them into each city to do community service and have the courthouses stop any banking businsess they have pending that will allow them to make additional money. they hire collection agencies etc. folks don't have money as is. they told us all byway of gesturing to kiss their butts. they are a unstoppable breed. the US threasury should make american currency obsolete if CEO's have to spend. Have them use wood chips if they want to spend.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  34. Yvonne

    Its amazing how republicans can be worried more how this is handled with a wait and see attitude rather throwing out solutions out. They are waiting to play the blame game.

    They are most certainly not helping the situation & it'll not help them in 2012.

    Just like they would rather give task break to the rich few than help create jobs for the middle class.

    How very typical.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  35. Colin Waters

    These bonuses are just one more example, after eight years of a tax-cutting policy, that MONEY DOES NOT TRICKLE DOWN.
    Right now, no-one is spending: The policy of every corporation in the USA, large and small, is, by necessity, conserving their cash. Tax breaks to companies will not help the economy. Other than perhaps expenditure on office decoration. The companies who are going out of business don't have any profits to pay tax on....

    January 29, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  36. ggs

    when you think about it, bailouts are not that different from welfare and we sure do have rules for welfare recipients. When private citizens opt to accept welfare, they told a lot of what they can and can not do so whether a corporation or a citizen, you give up privacy when you take government money. So will Wall Street Reform be like welfare reform?

    January 29, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  37. Terry

    Hooray for President Obama for taking Wall Street to task in regard to the outrageous bonuses. !!! They ask for a bailout from the taxpayers
    & then raise interst rates on credit cards to "Loan Shark" levels.
    Perhaps there should be Conditions of Participation in the "Bailout".
    #1 The taxpayers are bailing us out , so we will not raise interest rates to levels that do not allow the consumer to pay off their debt.
    The American public did not receive raises this year and yet the Wall Street Elite gets millions.... There is something drastically wrong here & it is being paid for on the backs of the "Little People."

    January 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  38. Naajiya B

    These CEOS don't care about our economic hardship. They want the money all for themselves. Obama will do something about this and they should and hopefully will all be fired.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  39. John

    Anderson, your question–will the stimulus work and create jobs and recovery? It will work to create jobs only in industries where it exceeds capacity of that industry. Construction–the money in the plan only fills current needs, delayed road and bridge maintenance, converting buildings to become energy efficient. The other industries–research and others perhaps by putting money into research programs–but it will probably pull researchers away from current programs. Flooding the economy wth federal money will just keep certain people working, not create new jobs as people needing to move into those industries won't have the skills, training or interest to make the change.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  40. Joy, Pittsburgh, PA "Go Steelers"

    I can't believe these CEO'S think that in a time of struggle for our country they shouldn't scale back we as americans I to cut back when times get hard what makes them think they are the exceptiin to the rules of living

    January 29, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  41. Bob Johnson

    When the CEO's of Wall Street accept bail-out money and us it for person gain, it's not "shameful", it's criminal. This money was not given to them for their own person gain, but to assist in bailing our struggling companies. Many people and groups might disagree with me, but I think the federal government should go after the CEO's and anyone else who received any of that money. If the CEO's cannot act in a responsible manner and use the money for what it was intended for, then the government must step in. I think the CEO's should take a page form the CEO of Japan Airline's and what he did. He too a cut in pay, opened his office and gets out and meets with his employees. The CEO's in the USA never get out of thier ivory towers and go out and meet the people who actually preform the work.

    If the CEO's can't use the money for what it was intended for then the money should be returned. But as one person commented the money is probably in offshore accounts where it cann't be touched or taxes.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  42. SusieB

    At the very least, the execs who were given these bonuses should be required to return this money immediately; this is not "executive pay", but money belonging to taxpayers! I appreciate Obama's strong censure of this very privileged, reprehensible behavior on the part of these executives.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  43. R Lloyd Heberden

    The "Bailout Funds" of moving taxpayers funds to "some" of the
    sleeziest "bankers" should not only be stopped, but also with the
    General Accounting Office requiring those bankers who have not used the "Bailout Funds" for the purpose intended, to return the funds to the U S Treasury. It makes the "investigations" of the appointed
    Secretary of Treasury, and his and others, of interpretations of the IRS
    "Chines Water Puzzles" seem like a game of "Tiddly Winks" compared
    to the "Russian Roulette Game" of some bankers currently! It is also somewhat like the extraction of funds from the peasants, that took place in Europe for Centuries, with the Aristocrats always being in favor! Our U S Constitution is not based on Old Aristocracies "Laws"!
    The latest edition of President Obama's "Bailout Funds" seems to
    progress somewhat like trying to build a fire out camping, on a stormy and rainy night, and all during the building of a fire for warmth, with
    some thinking it a joke, by "adding" additional moisture to the already dismal fire building!
    Hopefully, tracking the use of Bailout Funds will be far more trans-
    parent than the billions of dollars not accounted for in Iraq from 2003
    to 2008! As it was explained and "justified", "Well, these things happen
    in a Wars Engagements!

    January 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  44. Carol Hitchie

    Washington is back to the same old same old...and I'm disappointed.
    Obama doesn't seem to be interested in considering other views...hmmm....who does this remind me of? Scary.
    Carol Hitchie
    Chicago

    January 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  45. James

    If banks are going to hold out their tin cans, they absolutely should not be awarding any bonuses. If they are not receiving aid from our taxes, then they can do as they please, but this is disgusting.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  46. Natalie Z.

    What I want to know is who are these CEO's? I want to know names and put them directly in the spot light! Im tired of hearing about "folks in wallstreet". i want to know who exactly these CEO's and exactly what companys they are from. I am so proud of my President for speaking out on this very serious issue.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  47. LeeAnn

    Why don't we just call this what it really is . . terrorism . . economic terrorism. Let's get Homeland Security involved and charge these CEOs with terrorism. They have done what international terrorists haven't been able to do . . shut down our economy and thereby shut down the global economy. Seriously, send them to GITMO.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  48. Sheila

    I am proud of Obama for calling out these incredibly selfish individuals on Wall Street, but it is imperative that he follow up with swift and severe penalties for their actions. Their behavior is disgusting.

    I have always maintained that the best financial bailout would be to give every taxpayer a million dollars. You can bet that everyone would use it to stimulate the economy in so many ways. People could buy back their homes, send their children to college, and pay bills. They could buy health care; the list could go on and on.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
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