Watching Wall Street Watch Obama
Andrew Ross Sorkin was in the audience for Obama's speech on financial regulation on Monday. But he wasn't watching the speech. He was watching the audience. They didn't like it, or at least they didn't like the important parts.
As I sat in Federal Hall in downtown Manhattan this afternoon listening to President Obama, I found myself glued less to his words than to the facial expressions and reactions of those in the audience. There was Richard D. Parsons, chairman of Citigroup; Gary D. Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs; Roger C. Altman, chief executive of Evercore Partners; Daniel Loeb, founder of the hedge fund Third Point; Peter G. Peterson, the co-founder of Blackstone Group; and James S. Chanos, the famous short-seller, among others.
These were the people Mr. Obama was really speaking to when he said, “You don’t have to wait to put the 2009 bonuses of your senior executives up for a shareholder vote. You don’t have to wait for a law to overhaul your pay system so that folks are rewarded for long-term performance instead of short-term gains.”
And it was at those words that many in the audience looked down, grimaced for a moment or took a nervous look at their BlackBerries. (I won’t “out” anyone by name, but they know who they are.)
Another line that brought some scowls: “It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system and a more broadly shared prosperity.”[...]
Perhaps tellingly, the only time the audience seemed to unanimously nod in approval was when President Obama placed the blame of the financial crisis not just at Wall Street’s feet but at the entire nation’s.
Photo credit: By Henny Ray Abrams — Associated Press
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