Theres a real void in the financial services community, said one banking lobbyist, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. The fray is coming to them quickly, and they dont have anything in place to fistfight with. I think the industry should be scared.
In the address, Obama urged Congress to hold Wall Street accountable, and he continued to press Members about changing the way business is done in Washington, D.C., by pushing back against special interests.
After several weeks of chastising Wall Street for its barrage of lobbyists working to weaken financial regulatory reform, industry groups seem not to be aggressively pushing back publicly. But with the onslaught of Obamas populist rhetoric coupled with their loss of influence, the banks may not be able to mount much of an opposition.
In the current environment, most of these guys are smart enough to realize that to do anything publicly right now [isnt smart], one financial services lobbyist said. There is so much animosity toward the industry, its palpable. Its not just Democrats, but Republican staff feel the same way.
Its poisonous, the lobbyist added of the political environment on Capitol Hill for banks.
At least one attempt to form an impromptu coalition among big banks to fight Obamas proposed new bank tax and other measures that the industry believes would be punitive was nixed after there was little appetite by the banks to fund the effort, according to one financial services lobbyist.
Three of the industrys largest trade groups the Financial Services Forum, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association are taking a conciliatory tone, at least for now.
FSF spokeswoman Erica Hurtt said the trade group is pro-reform and is actively engaged in the dialogue on how to best modernize and reform our financial supervisory structure.
SIFMA spokesman Andrew DeSouza echoed the forums stance.
The entire industry remains unified in its commitment to enacting responsible regulatory reforms that strengthen our system and get Americas economy back on track and create jobs, he said.
Despite their mollifying tone, the groups, which largely represent the biggest financial institutions in the country, are opposed to Obamas recent bank tax proposal.
SIFMA has hired constitutional lawyer Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin to study a possible legal battle against the proposed tax, but DeSouza said it was premature to discuss how the trade group would move forward until after specific legislation is introduced.
The tax is just the latest issue weighing on an industry that is having a hard time sticking together. Smaller banks, which would be exempt from the tax along with hedge funds and private equity firms, which are also likely to be exempt from the tax are against an aggressive lobbying strategy.