NEW YORK (
) -- President Obama is taking his message to Wall Street on Monday, and while he is sure to have a captive audience, many of the regulatory reform proposals he will advocate are being fought tooth and nail by the locals.
The president will appear at Federal Hall, nearly
regulators, some of whom remain in his administration, allowed
to fail. Obama is likely to use the anniversary as an opportunity to push his agenda of hands-on regulation. He is pushing tighter oversight of several factors that helped push Lehman under ground.
Obama's proposals have promoted tighter restrictions on capital levels, risk management and executive pay, as well as more transparency in the market for derivatives. His team also would like to create a consumer-protection agency that oversees the marketing and sales of financial products.
Wall Street has fought most of those ideas, adopted some of its own accord, and found routes around others.
Banks already have begun adjusting pay packages to avoid scrutiny by, for instance, raising the base salary of executives rather than giving stock and performance-based awards, as bonuses have become a thorny issue. Now in cash-preservation mode, they are already gearing up for the implementation of stronger capital rules that the G-20 group of nations may adopt within a few years.
They also agreed to provide information about most
. If banks provide such data collectively, it won't hurt the competitive edge of anyone, and perhaps prevent the rout that brought
American International Group
But while banks are cooperating out of necessity -- and are being sued or criticized for their marketing of all sorts of products, from mortgages and credit cards to money market funds and auction-rate securities -- they would rather handle the issues on their own. Industry groups are pushing back against the consumer protection agency idea, saying it unnecessarily duplicates the efforts of agencies that already exist, and makes it more expensive and tougher for firms to operate. Those groups represent banks that finance the campaigns of lawmakers on financial committees, meaning any proposal which passes likely will be watered down.
When times were bad, the government's $700 billion rescue plan was deemed necessary. The feds were condemned for letting Lehman collapse, fueling a market panic, while implementing steps to assist competitors.
But now that times are good, banks want the government to step out of the way. Firms like
already have repaid bailout funds.
Bank of America
are moving ahead with plans to do so.
is further back, but turned to profitability last quarter. In fact, while Morgan lost $1.3 billion last quarter, the others earned a combined $13 billion.
How times have changed.
Obama's team, using its leverage as a major preferred stock holder, has goaded banks into various moves since taking office in January. Boards and executives have changed, bonuses have been apologized for and occasionally returned, fewer risks have been taken, and capital levels remain high. But unless Congress acts to pass some version of his regulatory overhaul, none of those changes will be set in stone.
Yet it may be worth remembering that AIG ultimately answered to state insurance regulators despite operating in various markets around the world. Citigroup became Citigroup before Congress adjusted
to allow for such a financial behemoth.
were actually pushed by lawmakers to back some of the very loans that fueled their collapse.
As past crises have proven, the market eventually finds a way around the rules that are passed. Congress adapts to a new financial reality, a few steps behind.
-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York