President Barack Obama said he doesn't "begrudge" some of the multimillion dollar bonuses handed out to executives at top financial firms.
The president emphasized that while he believes companies have the right to pay top employees what they want, and said that differences in executives' talent can justify differences in pay.
“I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth," Obama told Bloomberg Business Week in an interview to hit newsstands Friday. "That is part of the free market system.”
In particular, Obama said that the top executives at JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, and Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein were "savvy buinessmen" who he knew likely deserved their bonuses. Dimon received a $17 million bonus last year, while Blankfein received $9 million.
And while the president acknowledged those bonuses were "an extraordinary amount of money" for most Americans, he noted, "there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well."
The Obama administration has taken unprecedented steps to rein in executive compensation, especially for firms that have still yet to pay back bailout funds for the government. His administration appointed "special master" for pay Kenneth Feinberg to set top executives' compensation at those firms, and Obama has called more broadly for new rules that would tie executive compensation to performance.