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Wall Street: 'We Are Sorry' for Meltdown

POSTED: 04:14 PM ET, 02/11/2009 by Derek Kravitz

We're Americans first and bankers second.

John Stumpf, president of Wells Fargo.

The first public apology for the financial crisis might have been heard today on Capitol Hill, as Morgan Stanley chief executive John Mack offered up what appeared to a blanket amends for Wall Street.

"We are sorry for it," Mack said, according to Frank Ahrens over at The Post's Ticker. "I am especially sorry for what's happened to shareholders. Clearly, as an industry, we have accountability and we're taking responsibility. I'll take responsibility for my firm."

Mack was one of eight of Wall Street's top chief executives testifying in front of the House Financial Services Committee to discuss what they are doing with some $350 billion in federal bailout money doled out to financially struggling banks and investment firms. Some offered apologies; others laid out sometimes-detailed plans of how they're spending the money.

But most lawmakers appeared skeptical at best and often derisive.

"You come here today on your bicycles after buying Girl Scout cookies and helping out Mother Teresa," said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.). "You're saying, 'We're sorry. We didn't mean it. We won't do it again. Trust us.' I have some people in my constituency who have robbed some of your banks and they say the same thing."

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Penn.) likened the banks' situation to moving "into a fishbowl."

"Now, everyone is rightly watching your every move from every side," he said.

Some of the executives described billions in new lending their companies were involved in while acknowledging it would take months, not weeks, for the credit markets to unfreeze. And even those optimistic predictions appeared to fall flat.

"Let me be frank, my constituents in Illinois are angry and so am I," said Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.). "We don't believe that taxpayer money has been spent wisely. We don't have the answers we need yet."

Meanwhile, in New York, the recently-merged firm Merrill Lynch faced fresh scrutiny after the state's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, said the firm had given out millions in bonus payments months ahead of schedule, including $121 million to its top four executives.

Cuomo said the firm, which merged with Bank of America, paid its top 149 executives $858 million in bonuses, and 696 received at least $1 million each. He released his findings in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

By Derek Kravitz |  February 11, 2009; 4:14 PM ET Economy Watch
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

You're sorry? For taking the bread out of our children's childrens mouths? For taking luxury jaunts after receiving bailout money? Yuk Fou, slime

Posted by: sunaj | February 12, 2009 12:18 AM

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