Big banks in US could see fat payday under Trump

Big banks in US could see fat payday under Trump

After eight years of unrelenting scrutiny and billions of dollars in legal settlements, the banking industry is facing a more hospitable political climate next year.

Prior to Nov 8, Wall Street had been girding for a potential Democratic victory that would have empowered progressive firebrands like Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who has pushed to break up large banks and jail banking executives in the wake of the financial crisis.

Instead, the Republican sweep of Congress and President-elect Donald Trump's election in one fell swoop bolstered the chances for pro-growth measures, tax cuts and loosening of a whole swath of regulations, including the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking law passed in response to the crisis.

"You're going to have a very substantial reversal in regulations of all types," Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen Schwarzman told the Goldman Sachs banking conference last week.

Mr Schwarzman, a major Republican donor tapped by Trump to chair a advisory council of prominent business leaders, gushed that the election would usher in the biggest regulatory revolution in his 45 years in finance.

Mr Trump's cabinet appointments have furthered the sense that his presidency will be good for big finance.

And he tapped Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to lead the National Economic Council, according to reports.

This is Mr Trump's third major personnel pick from the prestigious New York investment bank following selections of Mr Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist.

Critics have accused the president-elect of hypocrisy after he railed against Wall Street on the campaign and then brought many financial market insiders onto his team.

"We're intensely worried," said Mr Bart Naylor, financial policy advisor at Public Citizen, a consumers advocacy organisation.

"What we do have on our side is a public that knows the banks screwed them to get into the financial crisis."

Wall Street itself is literally cashing in on the fat expectations.

The S&P banks index has surged more than 25 per cent since Nov 8, lifting the entire sector, including Goldman Sachs, the midsized Capital One and regional banks like KeyCorp in Cleveland.

Yet, Mr Erik Oja, a banking analyst at CFRA, rejected the suggestion that big banks will win major rollbacks under the Trump administration.

Smaller banks may win concessions, but big banks are still under fire.

"I don't think there's any political will at all to do any rollback for the largest banks," Mr Oja said, adding that there was still a remote chance large banks could face calls to break them up.

He attributed the rise in bank share prices primarily to rosier outlooks about the economy due to the anticipated pro-growth policies and the expectation the Federal Reserve will accelerate interest rate increases.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to dismantle the Dodd-Frank law, whose main provisions include tougher capital requirements on banks, the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Board and Volcker rule, which restricts the ability of big banks to make highly lucrative investments that do not benefit their customers.

Smaller regional banks in particular have complained about the burden of regulations meant to rein in excesses of the large banks that could take down the whole system.


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