Leaders of the country's biggest banks defended themselves on Wednesday against accusations of greed, while insisting before Congress that they have used all of the $165 billion worth of taxpayer funds granted to their institutions appropriately.
On Capitol Hill, CEOs of the eight banks that received the most money from the government -- Citigroup's (C - Get Report) Vikram Pandit, Bank of America's (BAC - Get Report) Kenneth Lewis, Goldman Sachs' (GS - Get Report) Lloyd Blankfein, Morgan Stanley's (MS - Get Report) John Mack, JPMorgan Chase's (JPM - Get Report) Jamie Dimon, Wells Fargo's (WFC - Get Report) John Stumpf and State Street's (STT - Get Report) Ronald Logue -- each gave testimony outlining the manner in which they have used their banks' rescue funds.
They also asserted that while taxpayers have a right to know how funds are being spent, some of the criticisms being lobbed against them are unwarranted or irrelevant.
Public outrage has been stoked by stories of Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain redecorating his office for $1.2 million last year as the firm lost $27 billion, of Bank of America spending millions to host a five-day Super Bowl party last month, or of a $343,000 event hosted by AIG (AIG) at a posh resort right after it received $85 billion in emergency government loans.Congress promised taxpayers economic recovery in return for a commitment of $700 billion to keep the banking industry solvent. Yet the average American is facing layoffs, climbing unemployment, deteriorated household wealth, plummeting home values, foreclosures and in some cases bankruptcy. When that average American believes his meager tax dollars are going to finance corporate jets, $35,000 commodes and billions of dollars worth of banker bonuses, he's understandably perturbed.