President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that "an unfinished piece of business" is to crack down banks that accept "big risks because the profit incentive and the bonus incentive is there for them."
Obama made his remarks in an interview on the "Marketplace" radio show, where he struck an unusually fiery tone addressing Wall Street and the banking industry. The research firm Potomac Research Group labeled the interview a "populist bombshell" in its Thursday morning briefing.
"Now, it's a great strength of our economies that we've got the deepest, strongest capital markets in the world, but what has also happened is that as the financial sector has grown, more and more of the revenue generated on Wall Street is based on arbitrage — trading bets — as opposed to investing in companies that actually make something and hire people," Obama said, according to a transcript.
Obama went on to say he told his economic team to look at ways to "grow the real economy" and shift profit incentives away from the riskier financial behaviors.
"And so, what I've said to my economic team, is that we have to continue to see how can we rebalance the economy sensibly, so that we have a banking system that is doing what it is supposed to be doing to grow the real economy, but not a situation in which we continue to see a lot of these banks take big risks because the profit incentive and the bonus incentive is there for them," he said. "That is an unfinished piece of business."
Obama praised the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulations and stressed "some of the work to get that done" will be banks restructuring themselves internally, but he didn't detail the steps he will actually take to reform the system.
One way he can act, however, is through enforcement actions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Potomac.
"Bitterly frustrated by Congress — he is contemptuous of House Republicans — Obama has limited options to take on big banks," the firm wrote. "He's obviously fond of executive orders, but we don't envision the Federal Reserve or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency executing tough new regs just because Obama wants them to. The SEC can be expected to regulate and prosecute vigorously, however."
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