13 Bankers (The Book)

… (The book) 13 Bankers describes the rise of concentrated financial power and the threat it poses to our economic well-being. Over the past three decades, a handful of banks became spectacularly large and profitable and used their power and prestige to reshape the political landscape. By the late 1990s, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that what was good for Wall Street was good for America. This ideology of finance produced the excessive risk-taking of the past decade, creating an enormous bubble and ultimately leading to a devastating financial crisis and recession … (full long text Homepage/13 Bankers … and excerpts).

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Who Are They? The title of this book is taken from a meeting held at the White House on March 27, 2009. In attendance were the heads of thirteen major U.S. banks (as well as representatives of two banking industry associations). The thirteen bankers, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, were: 

  • Ken Chenault, American Express
  • Ken Lewis, Bank of America
  • Robert Kelly, Bank of New York Mellon
  • Vikram Pandit, Citigroup
  • John Koskinen, Freddie Mac
  • Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs
  • Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase
  • John Mack, Morgan Stanley
  • Rick Waddell, Northern Trust
  • James Rohr, PNC
  • Ronald Logue, State Street
  • Richard Davis, US Bank
  • John Stumpf, Wells Fargo

We chose this meeting because it aptly symbolizes the solidarity between the new Obama administration and the major banks at the depths of the financial crisis and recession. Speaking with reporters after the meeting, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “We’re all in this together,” a phrase repeated by multiple bank CEOs. This contrasted with the new Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration of 1933, which largely froze out the bankers, much to their chagrin.

This is also the meeting at which Obama said, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” This was the point at which the government had to decide if it would defend the financial oligarchy from populist outrage, or whether it would reform the financial system that brought us the financial crisis and severe recession. We do not think it was an easy choice. But ultimately Obama and his advisers chose to bet on the bankers they knew. The result has been even larger banks and an even more concentrated financial sector.

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