President Barack Obama may have some tough words for executives of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and other financial firms when he meets with them on Monday.
Obama, who has complained about fat cat bankers taking big bonuses, will use the meeting to press the firms to expand their lending to small businesses and to stop trying to thwart legislation to overhaul the financial regulatory system.
But the broader message from the White House, which has taken political heat for its support of the $700 billion financial bailout, will be that the taxpayer-funded rescue gives the banks an obligation to do more to help the economy.
The session begins at 11:10 a.m.,. Obama is scheduled to make a public statement about the economy right afterward, at 12:10 p.m.
It comes as Citigroup laid out a plan to repay the money it owes the U.S. government, including issuing $17 billion of stock immediately, as the bank looks to end restrictions on executive pay that came with the federal funds.
Dick Parsons, chairman of Citigroup; Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs; and John Mack, chairman and chief executive of Morgan Stanley are among the 12 executives who will participate in the meeting.
What the president's going to say to the bankers is: you guys were part of the problem, you helped create an economic crisis here that has cost 7 million Americans their jobs, and now you have to be part of the solution, senior White House adviser David Axelrod said on ABC's Good Morning America.
People are not going to tolerate a situations where the bankers have a party, they pick up the tab and then the bankers pay themselves huge bonuses and they're not lending, he added.
TROUBLES ON MAIN STREET
Many Americans are outraged at the bonus practices of Wall Street and blame the recklessness of financial players for causing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
In the aftermath of the crisis, Americans are grappling with continued job losses and a U.S. unemployment rate of 10 percent.
Obama, whose public approval ratings are below 50 percent and at the lowest levels of his presidency, is frustrated that some of the public's anger at Wall Street firms is being directed at his administration for its support of the financial rescue package it inherited from the Bush administration.
The White House has sharpened its rhetoric toward the financial industry as it seeks to distance itself from Wall Street.
In an interview broadcast on the CBS program 60 Minutes, Obama vented annoyance with the bankers over bonuses and their efforts to derail proposals for tougher oversight of Wall Street.
I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street, Obama said.
What's really frustrating me right now is that you've got these same banks who benefited from taxpayer assistance who are fighting tooth and nail with their lobbyists up on Capitol Hill, fighting against financial regulatory control, he added.
The Obama administration has defended its support for the financial rescue program, saying it was needed to stem a panic in financial markets and head off a potentially greater calamity in the broader economy.
In a victory for Obama, the U.S. House of Representatives last week approved its version of the financial regulatory reform legislation. Before the bill can become law, the slower-moving Senate will need to approve its version, then differences between the two bills will need to be ironed out.
An army of lobbyists for banks and Wall Street firms, whose profits may be threatened, have fought for months to weaken and delay reforms, criticizing what they call an unneeded and costly intrusion on business. (Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jackie Frank)