Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wall Street Moves on Big Bankers Are Back to Business as Usual

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wall Street Moves on Big Bankers Are Back to Business as Usual

Article excerpt

Is it time to put the Great Recession behind us?

Not in terms of the economy -- which remains bogged down with high unemployment, low growth and other aftershocks -- but rather when it comes to demanding a rigorous effort to hold Wall Street bankers, traders and executives accountable for their role in causing the financial crisis.

Many Americans have lost enthusiasm for the fight, but the path we ultimately take will reveal to us and the world much about who we are as a people and what ethics, values and morality we stand for. It will also have serious lasting implications if we hope to avoid a rerun of what happened over the last five years.

At the moment, the message we are broadcasting far and wide is: There will be no justice; there will be no accountability; let's return to the status quo as quickly as possible.

There are, not surprisingly, powerful and articulate voices in favor of moving on. In his book "Unintended Consequences," Edward Conard, a former Bain Capital partner of Mitt Romney, argues that occasional market collapses such as 1929 and 2008 are a small price to pay for a system of capital allocation that has produced vast sums of wealth, extraordinary technical and financial innovation and an incentive system that rewards people handsomely for taking risks.

This is the country that produced Apple, Google and Facebook, among the most admired corporations in the world, Mr. Conard writes. He believes the sooner we get back to untethering Wall Street's animal instincts the better. That means modest regulation, at best, and an end to any efforts at meting out justice for those personally responsible for the financial crisis because, hey, stuff happens.

Likewise, in a recent speech in Washington, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, returned to many of his favorite themes. One was how little he cares for much of the Dodd-Frank law and the proposed Volcker Rule, which limits banks' ability to trade for their own accounts. He reiterated his belief that the right kind of financial regulation is necessary, in the vein of laws preventing drunken driving. But, like Mr. Conard, Mr. Dimon said the new regulatory environment is holding back economic growth.

He said he had discussed the topic with business owners and executives around the country: "They all say it's terrible. So it's not just banks. We've done it to ourselves, folks. We're shooting ourselves in the foot and we're doing it every day. Get rid of that wet blanket and this thing will take off."

Even Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, has started to make noise again after a few years of lying low. As part of what the press has nicknamed his No Apologies Tour, Mr. Blankfein has also called for relief from the wet blanket. "Getting rid of some regulations and rules that are impairing people from investing vast pools of liquidity that are on the sideline, that are not owned by the government, that are theirs to invest but are just sitting on the sideline" will help get the economy humming again, he told CNBC. …

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