With apologies to Dostoevsky, if Dodd-Frank is dead, anything is permitted. Well, Dodd-Frank is not dead, and there's still plentyon Wall Street that's not permitted. But Donald Trump rode into D.C. promising to “dismantle” the financial reforms, and although his prospective Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated his opposition to ditching the law in toto (see: Volcker rule), it's clear that the incoming administration will make regulatory rollback a priority.
That puts our friends Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein in an awkward spot. In the politically touchy post-crisis period, it became gauche for any big bank head to come out and say what he truly felt about Dodd-Frank, as when Dimon grumbled about the law's provisions being “idiotic” and “ridiculous” back in 2011. In more recent years, public relations has dictated a blander approach along the lines of Sure, we'll eat our vegetables.
But Trump's election has opened up new and exciting opportunities for banks hoping to shake off the yoke of capital buffers and liquidity requirements and the like. So Jamie and Lloyd have been taking a middle path, neither grabbing for every juicy morsel on the buffet table nor standing off to the side and pretending not to be hungry. They're taking a strategic approach. And they seem to have gotten the same memo.
Compare their statements during winter-coated interviews at Davos this week about Dodd-Frank's past and future. Here's Blankfein, courtesy of CNBC:
Regulation came on very heavily, especially in our industry. And the pendulum may have gone too far… I’m not sure the regulators would have drafted all the laws that drive their regulatory [approach].
Now compare Dimon's remarks to Bloomberg:
No one in their rational mind could say that everything that was done, and how it was done, was done right.
Dodd-Frank wasn't perfect, and even those charged with carrying it out would probably agree. So what's the solution, chuck it all? Blankfein:
That's not saying we want repeal of all regulation or repeal of Dodd-Frank or anything like this.
I’m not someone for wholesale throwing it out and all that.
Great! Looks like we're on the same page there (as is most of Wall Street). So if you're not for the Old Yeller treatment, what's next? Blankfein:
We want to take another sensible look at this stuff now that we have some experience in operating.
Can't argue with sensibility. How about you, Jamie?
It makes sense when you have legislation like that after a while to open it up, look at what worked, look what didn’t, recalibrate it, modify it, change it, to accomplish what you want to do.
It's not clear if they were working from the a photocopied set of talking points or just treading the same narrow path that any bulge-bracket CEO must at this point when asked to extemporize on the death of Dodd-Frank.