By Simon Johnson
There are two fundamentally different views regarding modern Wall Street. The first is that the financial sector has been terribly and unjustly put upon in recent years – regulated into the ground and treated with repeated disrespect, including by the White House.
There was, for example, an impressive amount of whining this week when no one from a big bank was invited to a high-profile meeting with the president on fiscal issues. As the people holding strongly to this view run large financial institutions and have effective public relations teams, this has become an important part of the conventional or establishment wisdom, repeated without question in some parts of the media.
The second view is that the powerful people who run global megabanks have lost all sense of perspective – including failing to realize that they have more access to people at the top of our political power structures than any other sector has ever had. Anyone who doubts this view – or wonders exactly how the revolving door among politics, lobbying and banking works – should read Jeff Connaughton’s account, “The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins” (which I have written about in more detail before). Mr. Connaughton is most gripping when he describes the failure of law enforcement around securities issues, including issues with both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Continue reading