In 2008, “the brokerage units of New York financial companies lost more than $35 billion. According to a report by the New York state comptroller, These companies simultaneously doled out an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses, “the sixth largest haul on record” and the same amount as distributed in 2004, when the Dow was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high. Reacting to the news, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs characterized the story with one word during Thursday’s press briefing: ”Outrageous.” “Whether it’s government or the financial system, we’re not going to be able do what is needed to be done if the American people read about this type of outrageous behavior, Gibbs said.
President Obama made it clear that he was frustrated by such corporate greed. Obama condemned the “shameful” Wall Street bonuses. “That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful, and part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility,” Obama said emphatically.
The shameful bonus report was just the most recent proof of Wall Street’s irresponsibility. Last week, as former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain was agreeing to resign from Bank of America, news broke that he had spent more than $1 million redecorating his office, including paying $800,000 for a celebrity designer and spending $87,000 on an area rug. All this while Merrill was collapsing -The bank reported a loss of $15.31 billion in 2008-and the newly merged Merrill Lynch- Bank of America was requesting more aid from the government.