White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president continues to be "concerned enough" about compensation levels on Wall Street as new reports show that officials at some of the world's largest banks are beginning to receive salary packages as big as or exceeding those handed out before the economic downturn.
At the White House press briefing on Monday, Gibbs reiterated the president's preference for "guidelines and proposals to rein in executive pay and to ensure that there is some measure in compensation and that the compensation rewards success." But when asked about a new report showing a rise in the industry's compensation packages -- even as unemployment in other sectors continues to increase -- the press secretary offered somewhat mild disapproval.
"I think the White House was concerned enough in February about this issue," he said, "and continues to be concerned enough about this issue."
Officials tasked with handling and overseeing the financial sector rescue have found themselves in a tricky situation when it comes to executive compensation. Claiming that they are largely hamstrung to stop bonuses or past payments, the White House and Congress have sought to implement legislation that would curb future excess. The lavish payments have the potential to create a real populist backlash and political headache, as witnessed by the backlash to AIG's bonuses in February.
Still, the White House doesn't seem eager or willing to get ahead of a second wave of potential anger. Gibb's reaction to the rise in executive compensation was decidedly even-tempered. And at another point in Monday's briefing he all but declined to field a similar question.
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