This Out to Lunch interview in Vanity Fair with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo is from back in September of 2010, but she presciently says exactly what many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters were thinking and gets to exactly why many of them were protesting.
There’s nothing wrong with someone making piles of money but if they make risky bets with piles of money and then still get bonuses and there’s no recourse for the risks they take, then there’s a big problem with that arrangement. In other words, bailouts with golden parachutes just doesn’t fly in any society.
Why, I asked her next, is it O.K. for the government to regulate salary caps on Wall Street when nobody objects to Oprah Winfrey earning $315 million last year, Tyler Perry $125 million, and Roger Federer a mere $43 million?
“Exactly,” she replied. “It’s the American Dream to achieve great success, and I don’t think the government should be regulating anyone’s salaries—including those on Wall Street. But I believe pay should be tied to performance. It’s mind-boggling to see some fat cat walking away with hundreds of millions in bonuses after they’ve taken their company into the ground. That’s wrong. They should be held accountable.”
A staggering 400 government agencies oversaw A.I.G., yet they all missed what was going on. (And A.I.G. was bailed out for $182 billion.) If government can’t regulate Wall Street, I asked, who can?
“I’m a free-market capitalist who would like to think that the market can correct itself. Unfortunately, the structures we have in place dropped the ball. The boards of directors were asleep at the wheel. So were the regulators. I believe that so-called independent boards of directors should be held accountable for their firms, too. Wall Street today faces the wrath of their shareholders and the scorn of the public. There’s got to be substantial change from within to regain public trust.” (VanityFair)