WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama today urged CEOs of some of the nation’s biggest banks to deal with bad assets that have made it difficult for them to lend money to businesses and consumers.
Obama and the bank executives also discussed the administration’s plan to stem the rise in home foreclosures, its proposal for tighter regulation of the financial industry, executive compensation and the financial bailout program, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Gibbs said Obama generally was pleased about the meeting. It lasted more than an hour.
“The president emphasized that Wall Street needs Main Street and Main Street needs Wall Street,” Gibbs told reporters.
He said the president stressed “that he had no agenda beyond working to get a solution, the right solution for our financial system and to get it stabilized and working again for the American people.”
Bankers pledged to work with Obama to restore the economy’s health.
“We want to see the American recovery,” said Robert Kelly, of Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
Obama invited chief executives from the 15 largest bank to the White House to discuss the economy and other issues.
Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase &Co., Vikram Pandit of Citigroup Inc., Ken Lewis of Bank of America Corp., John Stumpf of Wells Fargo &Co., John Koskinen of Freddie Mac and Kenneth Chenault of American Express Co., were among those who attended.
The administration this week announced its program to help banks clear their balance sheets of so-called “toxic assets,” bad investments that have tied up their capital and made it difficult for them to lend money.
Under the plan, the administration and private investors would take over up to $1 trillion in sour mortgage securities from banks. The goal is to free up money banks could then use for loans to businesses and consumers.
The administration also detailed its proposal for tighter regulation of the financial system. That includes giving the government broad power to take over major financial institutions that are not banks, such as American International Group, the giant insurer whose collapse would threaten the system.
AIG has received several infusions of federal bailout money, more than $170 billion in all, because administration officials say its failure would have far-reaching and devastating consequences around the world.
Obama also has announced a program to help millions of homeowners refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.
Bankers called the administration’s regulatory proposal an “encouraging first step” but said they wanted to see more detail.