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“That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful. And part of what we’re going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility.”
That was President Barack Obama in 2009 responding to news that Wall Street financial executives had raked in $18.4 billion in bonuses for 2008. “I’d like to throw these guys in the brig,” Vice-President Joe Biden chimed in. “They’re thinking the same old thing that got us here, greed. They’re thinking, ‘Take care of me.’”
Jack Lew, chief operating officer at Citi Alternative Investments, a division of Citigroup, was certainly well taken care of, bagging a cash bonus of nearly $1 million on top of his $1.1 million salary. As Charles Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee noted, Lew’s bonus came just before a $301 billion government bailout of Citigroup. The bonus also came during a time of job losses and economic hardship for millions of Americans. Lew responded that “my compensation was in line with other management executives at the firm and in similarly complex operations.”
So in Lew’s mind he deserved the whole package. Four years later newly re-inaugurated President Obama has evidently forgotten the shame and irresponsibility of financial institutions making “huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money.” Obama now wants Jack Lew to be his Treasury Secretary, and his bonus is missing from key press coverage.
The Washington Post says Lew “aggressively advocates on behalf of programs that protect the poor,” but holds “a belief that the nation must have its financial books in order.” They aren’t in order now and not likely to become so with Lew running the Treasury.
In similar style, Obama’s pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission is Mary-Jo White a former prosecutor now with the private firm of Debevoise & Plimpton where she “defends companies accused by the government of white collar crime.” The Washington Post noted that her clients have included “Wall Street titans” and that White recently said that it’s important to “not bow to the frenzy” that seeks criminal penalties against Wall Street executives.