- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senior administration official sources say President Barack Obama learned only last Thursday that insurance giant AIG was paying employees millions of dollars in bonuses.

The bonus pay has caused an uproar because the American International Group Inc. has relied on billions of dollars of taxpayer help for survival.

The White House has faced questions about when, exactly, Obama learned that AIG executives were going to get $165 million in bonus pay.

Officials for the first time on Tuesday night said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the White House last Thursday, and senior aides informed the president later that day.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House stood by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday amid widespread outrage over millions of dollars in bonuses insurance giant AIG gave to executives after receiving federal bailout money.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama had confidence in Geithner and the Treasury Department’s oversight. But Gibbs underscored that Obama is working as quickly as possible with Congress to find ways to block the bonuses at the American International Group Inc. or at least to recoup the money.

The spokesman said the administration also is considering following the lead of the New York attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, who has subpoenaed the names of those receiving the bonuses.

“I think the specific proposal about making public those names is something that the administration is looking at,” Gibbs said.

Republicans said Obama and his administration should have leaned harder on AIG executives to reject the bonuses of $165 million for top executives. AIG has received tens of billions of dollars in bailout money.

Gibbs sought to put the focus on bigger reforms ahead.

He said Obama wants both financial regulation reform and a new “resolution authority” to deal with giants like AIG that get into complex financial trouble. He said that authority would be used “in order to break apart, unwind and finally resolve the issues that we face with systemic risk.”

Taking a series of questions about AIG from reporters in his daily briefing, Gibbs had no answers for many matters, including when Obama learned about the bonuses and why the president did not discuss them until a contractual deadline about the bonuses had passed last week.

Asked directly if Obama is satisfied that he found out about the bonuses in a timely fashion, Gibbs said: “Yes, the president is satisfied.”

“The president certainly won’t be satisfied until, moving forward, we have changed the way we do business in Washington, changed the way we do business on Wall Street, to ensure that there’s a financial regulatory system that’s in place in order not to find things like AIG happening again,” Gibbs said.

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