"There has to be a sense of the American people that you understand their anger … and that you're willing to make some sacrifices to get this working," Frank said.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd C. Blankfien acknowledged the "broad public anger" directed at the financial industry.
"In my 26 years at Goldman Sachs, I have never seen a wider gulf between the financial services industry and the public," Blankfien said. "Many people believe -- and, in many cases, justifiably so -- that Wall Street lost sight of its larger public obligations and allowed certain trends and practices to undermine the financial system's stability."
Blankfien said in prepared remarks that the entire industry is suffering right along with Main Street.
"The fact is that all of us are contending with the consequences of a deteriorating economy; lost jobs, lost orders, and lost confidence," he said.
JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon praised the government for taking "bold and necessary steps" to keep the crisis from becoming something "none of us would want to imagine."
Dimon also said that a "fragmented and overly complex" government regulation system is partly to blame for the crisis.
"Long-term recovery will elude the financial industry unless we modernize our financial regulatory system and address the regulatory weaknesses that recent events have uncovered," Dimon said.
The CEOs did provide some details about how they used the TARP money, particularly how it was loaned out. JP Morgan, for instance, increased its consumer loan balances by 2.1 percent in the forth quarter. Dimon noted this happened at a time when consumer are spending less.
Last week, Citi published a report detailing how it used the TARP funds to date. It promised to update the report each quarter. Other banks pledged to make similar information publicly available.
Other CEOs present were from Wells Fargo, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street. The eight financial firms received a combined total of $125 billion since October through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, commonly referred to as TARP.
Lawmakers have expressed outrage that the funds are not fulfilling their purpose of increasing the flow of credit to consumers. They point to a report released last month by the New York state comptroller that said Wall Street firms had handed out $18 billion in bonuses last year.
That news led President Obama to impose new restrictions on executive compensation for banks that receive money through the TARP in the future.
After news broke that Wells Fargo was planning an annual trip for many of its top employees in Las Vegas, the company cancelled the outing.
"These financial institutions on the brink of extinction come to the American taxpayer for hundreds and billions of dollars," McCaskill said. "At the very same time, they think they're going to buy a $50 million corporate jet. They're going to pay out $18 billion in bonuses. They paid an average of $2.6 million to every executive at the first 116 banks that got taxpayer money under TARP."
But just as lawmakers have questions for the executives, there are also questions for lawmakers to answer.