Obama: Wall St. should alter pay incentives

Obama: Wall St. should alter pay incentives

President Barack Obama, who once called bank executives "fat cats" and their pay "obscene," says Wall Street needs to change executive pay incentives that reward risky bets that can yield fortunes but can also devastate financial institutions.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Obama says that despite congressional passage of a financial regulation overhaul in 2010, there still are not enough adequate means of holding risk takers in the industry accountable if their investment schemes fail.
"You still have a situation where people making bets can get a huge upside, and their downsides are limited," Obama says in the edition that hits newsstands on Friday. "So it tilts the whole system in favor of very risky behavior."

The wide ranging interview with presidential historian Douglas Brinkley covered topics ranging from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's secretly recorded remarks to donors about Obama supporters to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' tie-breaking decision declaring Obama's health care plan constitutional.

Obama's appearance on the magazine's cover comes less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election and underscores the president's outreach to young voters in key battleground states. Obama also has agreed to a cable television interview with MTV that is to air Friday.

When Congress wrote new financial regulations two years ago, it included "say on pay" provisions giving shareholders the right to vote on executive pay packages. But Obama said there was still a need to limit compensation, though he said it could be accomplished with a mix of legislation and corporate governance.

"I think a legitimate concern, even after Dodd-Frank, is, 'Have we completely changed those incentives?'" Obama said, referring to the legislation by the names of its two chief Democratic sponsors, then-Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

"These days, you've got guys who are making five years of risky bets, but it's making them USD 100 million every year," Obama told Brinkley. "By the time the chicken comes home to roost, they're still way ahead of the game."