The President’s meeting with the top U.S. bankers on Friday was a non-confrontational gathering, which nevertheless saw the nation’s chief executive tell the industry leaders that it was necessary to show restraint while continuing to help the nation by continuing to lend, according to several reports.
A common refrain from executives after the gathering, which was closed off to the media, was the President’s message that “We’re all in this together.”
Another message from Obama was that “Excess is out of fashion,” according to several reports, noting that pay must be linked to performance, according to the New York Times. Bankers nodded in agreement but did not make firm commitments, the Times said.
The President also called for “constraint and responsibility.” He set himself as an example by pointing out that he had not yet renovated the Oval Office and was still using the furniture from the previous administration, according to the Washington Post.
After the meeting J.P. Morgan Chase chief executive acknowledged that banks had made mistakes, including excessive lending, inadequate underwriting, and overcompensating employees, the Post reported.
The president opened up by talking about the importance of dealing with toxic assets and getting banks lending again, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs during a press briefing.
Citigroup’s chief executive Viram pandit said he and the other CEOs were upbeat about the direction the administration was taking in setting up a public-private push to purchase assets, the New York Times reported.
During the meeting with 13 executives, the President called on each executive seated with him to offer comments.
The banking leaders gathered each came from banks which had accepted government loans to bolster their balance sheets, even as some of the bankers gathered had previously said that they did not need the funds.
Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyed Blankfein and American Express chief Kenneth Chenault both asked the President about a pathway for them to pay back the government loans, according to the Times. Obama said he didn’t want banks to pay back the loans if it meant reducing lending.
The meeting also included the chief executives of the American Bankers Association, American Express, Bank of America, Bank of Mellon New York, Citigroup, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Independent Community Bankers, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, PNC Financial, State Street and Wells Fargo.