Both the Obama administration and Wall Street were privately hailing yesterday's summit at the White House as a public relations success, albeit for some slightly surprising reasons.
The chief executives of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley failed to make the meeting in Washington because their planes were delayed by bad weather, allowing them to highlight how they had eschewed private jets in favour of travelling commercial. The most senior banker who made the meeting, JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, had flown down the day before on a corporate jet.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, used the occasion to assuage public anger at the bailout of Wall Street and continuing high unemployment, which is being blamed in part on banks' ongoing unwillingness to lend. In a television interview on Sunday, the President said: "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," and added that "some people on Wall Street still don't get it".
Yesterday's one-and-a-half-hour summit, attended by the President's economic team and 10 Wall Street bosses – plus Messrs Blankfein and Mack and Citigroup's chairman, Dick Parsons, on speakerphone – was designed to put pressure on banks to aid homeowners and credit card borrowers who have got into difficulty, to extend new loans to creditworthy businesses, and to curtail their lobbying against the reforms of Wall Street which are before Congress.
After the meeting, the President said it was not his intention to vilify individuals, but added: "Given the difficulty that businesspeople are having as lending has declined, and given the exceptional assistance banks received to get them through a difficult time, we expect them to explore every responsible way to help get our economy moving again."
Richard Davis, the chief executive of US Bancorp, said: "He didn't call us any names – but we didn't sit around talking about the holidays."Reuse content