Finance

For the White House, a New Banker Buddy


The White House has found a banker it can do business with. While other bank chiefs fight President Barack Obama's plan to fix financial regulation, either openly or through trade groups, Bank of America (BAC) boss Brian Moynihan embraces it. He has called for a consumer financial protection agency, quickly addressed problems with BofA's home-loan modification program, and pursued small-business initiatives with the White House. "He has been willing to speak out bravely in his industry on the need for reform," says Valerie Jarrett, the White House liaison to Corporate America, who has met with Moynihan three times. "And he has been willing to come to Washington and roll up his sleeves to work on the issue." Since becoming Bank of America's CEO on Jan. 1, Moynihan has also visited top Administration officials including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and economic adviser Lawrence Summers

Moynihan's rise comes as JPMorgan Chase (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon gets more combative about reform. A frequent entry in the West Wing visitors' log, Dimon has adopted a chilly tone toward regulatory overhaul. Last year, after Obama previewed his reform proposal, Dimon warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed of the "pendulum swinging too far."

Jarrett dismisses the idea that the White House favors one banker over the other. "This isn't about relationships, it's about issues," she says. Anne Finucane, BofA's chief marketing officer, cautions that Moynihan isn't on board with every Obama proposal. The bank, for instance, still wants any financial overhaul to supersede tougher state laws. She says the cooperative attitude makes business sense for the head of the largest U.S. bank. "The industry has experienced a low moment in its reputation," she says. "And we are very anxious to get back to business with our clients and customers."

The bottom line: As the White House tries to tighten the reins on Wall Street, BofA's Moynihan has become an ally.

Nichols is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Washington.
Goldman is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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