Today’s Q’s for O’s WH – 6/10/2009

By Gorman Gorman

Jun 10, 2009 3:57pm

TAPPER:  A couple questions:  The shooting today at the Holocaust Museum, combined with the shooting of Dr. Tiller, as well as the shooting of the military recruiter in Little Rock —  is the White House at all concerned that there is some sort of trend of political violence or domestic terrorism going on? 


GIBBS:  I would — I would want to ask somebody in law enforcement if they see links such as that.  I don’t — I don’t think it would be wise for me to surmise something like that. I think, as the president said in his statement after the shooting of Dr. Tiller, that regardless of disagreeing or disparate viewpoints, that, obviously, in our society, this is not in any way the type of action that anybody wants to see in settling even the most vehement disputes.  But I — it’s hard for me to surmise without having a more in- depth conversation with law enforcement.


TAPPER:  This is really just out of curiosity more than anything.  How do you guys decide which acts of violence will prompt a White House response and which ones won’t?  There was a statement that went out about Dr. Tiller.  How is the decision made that that would get a presidential statement, whereas the military recruiter in the Arkansas shooting would not?


GIBBS:  Well, I believe a statement did go to many stations in Arkansas regarding that.


TAPPER:  OK.  And just about executive compensation.  What — what’s the response of the White House to the push-back from business groups that the federal government should have no role in deciding how their executive compensation is delivered?  Whether it’s a nonbinding resolution or not, it’s not the job of the government to tell them how to run their companies?


GIBBS:  Well, look, obviously this is split up into at least three different baskets, I’d say.  You have the congressional amendment, the Dodd amendment that passed, covering for the top five corporate officers and the next highest 20 paid employees for all companies receiving some measure of TARP assistance.  And that governs limits on bonuses.  That’s one.  That was congressional intent.


 I think you’ll see from the fact sheets that will soon go out — my apologizes that they haven’t — there’s a bit of an expansion from what is in the congressionally mandated amendment that gives for the seven current companies receiving extraordinary assistance, the ability to not simply look at the top five-plus-20, but indeed the top 100 in order to judge, as I said, the soundness, the appropriateness, and whether or not the risk is being — is being taken into account in this.


Lastly, the president has supported, as a member of the Senate, and continues to support efforts that are non-binding shareholder efforts to provide — so that shareholders are empowered to provide some say on the — on the compensation for the managers for the companies for which they invest.


It’s non-binding, but we have seen in, certainly, other countries that have had arrangements like this that the power of public opinion is persuasive in ensuring that compensation doesn’t become so aligned with short-term gain rather than long-term incentive, which is why most people own stock in a company.


I think the president believes that there are steps that we can take to ensure that there are mechanisms in place, again, that bolster this notion of long-term incentive rather than short-term gain so that that doesn’t contribute to something like we’ve seen in this economic crisis.


TAPPER:  Focusing on the publicly traded companies, you didn’t mention the push that Secretary Geithner mentioned today to have the compensation boards be more independent.


GIBBS:  That’s another legislative thing that allows — like in Sarbanes-Oxley, with the independence of the accounting committees, this provides the independence for the compensation committee not to be connected with management, again, in order to set compensation that is outside of what we believe rewards that long-term incentive.


I think the president believes, rightly, that these two legislative efforts, in addition to the regulation surrounding the — around the Dodd amendment as well as what Mr. Feinberg is going to do are common sense reforms that will give people confidence in publicly traded companies.


Lastly, the president has supported, as a member of the Senate, and continues to support efforts that are non-binding shareholder efforts to provide — so that shareholders are empowered to provide some say on the — on the compensation for the managers for the companies for which they invest.


-jpt


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