When Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs’ chairman and chief executive, arrived at the Rayburn building on Capitol Hill in late 2010, he was battered and bruised. At the time his bank was viewed as a vivid example of Wall Street misbehaviour. In the previous months it had been sued by regulators, flayed by lawmakers then damaged by the passage of Dodd-Frank, a law that would curtail its freedom in the name of preventing another financial crisis.
2010年末，当高盛(Goldman Sachs)董事长兼首席执行官劳尔德贝兰克梵(Lloyd Blankfein)抵达美国国会雷伯恩(Rayburn)办公大楼时，他很受伤。他执掌的这家银行当时被视为华尔街不当行为的生动例证。之前几个月，该银行被监管机构起诉，遭到立法者批评，接着又因《多德-弗兰克法》(Dodd-Frank Act)通过而受损，该法将以防范另一场金融危机为名，限制该行的自由。
Mr Blankfein was going to meet its co-author Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House’s financial services committee. Goldman Sachs had concerns over the new oversight regime, but it could not afford to look intransigent. “I’m for smart regulation,” Mr Blankfein said in the private encounter, trying to sound co-operative. “And I’m for fucking dumb regulation,” Mr Frank replied sarcastically.
If the Obama years were a harsh time for Goldman in Washington, the election of Donald Trump has provided a new opening. Not only does the president regularly rail against “job-killing regulations”, he has made two Goldman alumni his point men on financial regulation. Gary Cohn, Mr Blankfein’s former deputy, heads the national economic council, while Steven Mnuchin, once its chief information officer, is Treasury secretary.
如果说奥巴马执政时期让高盛在华盛顿的日子变得难过的话，那么唐纳德特朗普(Donald Trump)当选带来了一个新的开端。特朗普不仅批评“扼杀就业的监管规定”，还让两位高盛人担任金融监管领域的排头兵：贝兰克梵的前副手加里科恩(Gary Cohn)现在担任国家经济委员会主席，曾在高盛担任首席信息官的史蒂文姆努钦(Steven Mnuchin)现任财政部长。
The new team in Washington could not have come at a more important time for Goldman. The bank that received a $10bn bailout from US taxpayers in 2008 is looking to the Trump administration for another helping hand, this time from what Goldman sees as overbearing regulation exacerbating its current trading funk.
For years the main engine of the Goldman money machine has been trading securities, the division where Mr Blankfein and Mr Cohn won their spurs. It remains one of its biggest revenue streams, but is misfiring. Part of the blame lies with traders who made bad calls this year. But its predicament goes deeper. Post-crisis regulation has curtailed the operation. In 2007 the bank’s net trading revenue from bonds, currencies and commodities peaked at $16.2bn. Last year, notwithstanding some reorganisation, the rough equivalent was $7.6bn. Goldman’s trading business is a shadow of its former self, albeit still highly profitable.
The main culprit in Goldman’s eyes is the Volcker rule, a ban on banks placing market bets with their own money. The idea of banning so-called proprietary trading — conceived by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker — was a centrepiece of former president Barack Obama’s efforts to build a bulwark against future crises requiring public bailouts. But the prohibition’s final form, which stretched to 964 pages of regulation, has been criticised by banks as muddled and overly complex. They blame it for inhibiting market making activity that was meant to be permitted.
高盛眼中的主要罪魁祸首是“沃尔克规则”(Volcker rule)，即禁止银行使用自有资金在市场操盘。禁止所谓的自营交易的想法——由美联储(Fed)前主席保罗沃尔克(Paul Volcker)提出——是前总统巴拉克奥巴马(Barack Obama)建设堡垒防范需要公众纾困的未来危机举措的核心。但禁令的最终形式（长达964页的法规）受到各银行的批评，称其混乱且过于复杂，扼杀了本该允许的做市活动。
Mr Blankfein described the Volcker rule this month as “very cumbersome”, complaining “you have people sitting on trading desks very nervous”. Other Goldman insiders are more blunt in private, attacking Volcker as a noose tailored for the bank’s throat.
Goldman declined to discuss its lobbying, but says: “As many of the regulators who implemented the [Volcker] rule have conceded, now is an appropriate time to review the rule.” The Financial Times has assembled a picture of its efforts from interviews with more than four dozen policymakers, bankers, lobbyists and lawyers. They describe an aggressive institution pushing to regain its trading edge by having Volcker watered down, if not abolished.
The bank is “all over it”, says a Treasury official. “Their single focus this year, more than any other bank, is the Volcker rule,” says the Washington chief of a rival institution. Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, which advocates tougher regulation, says: “Goldman has always been the big swashbuckling trader that wants to take huge risks and huge leverage for the big score.”
美国财政部一位官员表示，高盛正“全力投入这件事”。“他们今年的单一焦点就是沃尔克规则，超过其他任何银行，”某家竞争对手的华盛顿主管表示。提倡加强监管的Better Markets的丹尼斯凯莱赫(Dennis Kelleher)表示，“高盛一直是霸气凌厉的大型交易商，希望为了赚大钱而承担巨大风险和巨大杠杆。”
Mr Blankfein says he is “barely” in touch with his former colleagues Mr Cohn and Mr Mnuchin, claiming in June to be “apprehensive” about how it might look. But Goldman has cause to hope Washington will come to its rescue.
When Mr Trump fired the gun on Wall Street deregulation this year Mr Cohn said “we’re not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year”. In June, Mr Mnuchin’s Treasury department unveiled a regulatory review whose bank-friendly recommendations included “substantial amendment” to the Volcker rule.
Randal Quarles, Mr Trump’s nominee to be the Fed’s regulatory chief, said last month that “the complexity of the rule makes it very difficult to apply and [we] should work to try to simplify [it]”.
But there are reasons to be cautious, too. So far not a single significant regulation has been changed. White House turmoil has slowed the confirmation of Trump appointees at the main US watchdogs. Goldman is straining relations with its rivals and its critics are ultra-vigilant for any sign of a “Government Sachs” plot.
Goldman Sachs and the Trump campaign were never natural bedfellows. Mr Trump’s final campaign video scorned the robber barons of the global elite as it displayed an image of Mr Blankfein. A tweet from the Goldman boss on Monday, interpreted by many as a comparison between the shadow cast by the solar eclipse and the Trump administration, hinted at the tensions. The head of its Washington office is a Democrat named Michael Paese, who leads a team of eight in-house lobbyists and oversaw lobbying spending of $1.4m in the first half of this year, compared with $3.2m for 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His boss is John Rogers, Goldman’s chief of staff, an earnest man from the Republican party establishment, which Mr Trump derides.
高盛和特朗普竞选阵营从来不是特别有缘的伙伴。特朗普最终的竞选视频在展示贝兰克梵照片的同时，鄙斥全球精英是强盗式资本家。高盛老板最近发表的一条推文被许多人解读为，他将日食投下的阴影比作特朗普政府，暗示了双方之间的紧张关系。高盛华盛顿办事处负责人迈克尔佩斯(Michael Paese)是一名民主党人，他领导着一个由8名内部游说者组成的团队；响应性政治中心(Center for Responsive Politics)的数据显示，他们今年上半年在游说上支出140万美元，而2016年全年为320万美元。佩斯的老板是高盛的幕僚长约翰罗杰斯(John Rogers)，一个坚定的共和党体制内人士，而特朗普嘲笑这些人。
Where Goldman and the Trump team have found common cause is deregulation. The job of the Rogers-Paese axis is to turn Mr Trump’s anti-red tape rhetoric into blows against the Volcker rule. It is a clunky regulation disliked by almost all US banks. But its reform is crucial for Goldman because of the bank’s outsized dependence on trading. Citigroup has surpassed Goldman by spending $2.5m on lobbying in the first six months of 2017, while JPMorgan Chase is in line with it at $1.5m, but both are universal banks working on multiple fronts. Morgan Stanley, which doled out $1.2m, was the investment bank most similar to Goldman before the crisis, but it has shifted its focus to wealth management.
高盛和特朗普团队在放松管制上找到了共同事业。罗杰斯-佩斯“轴心”的工作就是将特朗普的反官僚主义言论转化为对沃尔克规则的打击。美国几乎所有银行都不喜欢这项碍手碍脚的法规。但其改革对高盛至关重要，因为该行对交易极为依赖。花旗集团(Citigroup) 2017年上半年支出了250万美元游说费用，超过了高盛的支出。摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)以150万美元与高盛看齐，但两家都是有多条战线的全能银行。支出120万美元的摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)在危机前是与高盛最相似的投资银行，但其重心已转移到财富管理。
Goldman, however, does not want to look like it is on a lone crusade. As one person who works with the bank says, it would be the kiss of death for any proposal to be branded the “Goldman Sachs amendment”. So it has tried to forge a united front with the industry.
But there are cracks in the faade. “[Goldman] don’t play well with others. Unless there’s something they want and feel collectively they can do,” says the chief lobbyist of another bank. On Volcker, “whatever the industry view is, it has to be their view”, he adds. The corralling of its peers has happened via the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or Sifma, a trade group. Sifma laid down a marker with comments it submitted in June to the Treasury’s regulatory review calling for Congress to erase the entire rule.
On conference calls where Sifma’s members thrashed out what they would say on Volcker, Goldman was “relentless” with Mr Paese at the helm, according to one person involved.
Another bank lobbyist says institutions that wanted refinements rather than the abolition of the Volcker rule pushed back against Goldman, worried that asking for too much would jeopardise the chance of any victories. But the lobbyist says that in the end: “What Sifma came out with on Volcker is what Goldman wanted. That’s where they did their fighting.” Ken Bentsen, Sifma president, however, denies that Goldman drove the process and says the trade group’s views have been consistent since 2010.
Putting himself in Goldman’s shoes, Peter J Solomon, founder and chairman of a boutique investment bank, says he would “absolutely” want to cast off Volcker and make big bets again. “I would want to do more. Where else are you going to make your money” he says.
一家精品投行的创始人和董事长彼得J所罗门(Peter J. Solomon)表示，如果站在高盛的角度，他“绝对”想要摆脱沃尔克规则，再次在市场上豪赌。他说：“我会想做更多事。不然你还能去哪儿赚钱？”
The received wisdom in Washington is that deregulation will come from Trump-appointees at the Fed and other agencies, which fleshed out Dodd-Frank with their rules and can loosen them within the existing law. In an internal podcast in March, Mr Paese said: “When those individuals are in place...I think you’ll see a deregulatory agenda come forward.” The Senate is yet to confirm Mr Quarles or a second Trump nominee for the Fed, which is Goldman’s primary regulator.
Only Congress could repeal the Volcker rule, and that is politically improbable. But there is a backdoor route for lawmakers to help Goldman. It would entail slipping Dodd-Frank changes into an end-of-year spending bill. Two people close to Goldman say it is evaluating its options. “We have our Christmas wishlist, but what can you actually get for the kids under the tree” says one.
Mr Mnuchin and Mr Cohn have hinted at changes that would exempt investment banks from some Dodd-Frank restrictions. In January, Mr Mnuchin told senators: “I think the concept of proprietary trading does not belong in banks with [federal] insurance.” The Volcker rule applies to all banks. Narrowing it to only the parts with government-insured deposits would liberate Goldman, because unlike its rivals it keeps its trading separate from its small consumer bank.
“That could be done by striking part of one sentence in the law,” says Tyler Gellasch, who helped draft the Volcker rule as a Senate aide. The Treasury denies its proposals would give an advantage to any large banks with a low reliance on deposit funding.
Then in April Mr Cohn said he favoured a 21st-century version of the Glass-Steagall law, a Depression-era statute that forced a structural separation of retail and investment banking. Mr Cohn’s version, however, was not about breaking up banks. Instead he alluded to multi-track regulation.
“Right now we’ve got this massive set of regulations built to regulate all banks as [if] they’re equal,” Mr Cohn said. “We may be able to tailor regulations for different aspects of the financial markets and different aspects of the financial institutions.” Rival lobbyists took that to mean fewer rules for Goldman traders but little respite for universal banks with more diversified businesses.
Michael Barr of the University of Michigan, who helped craft Dodd-Frank at the Treasury department, says: “What the administration seems to mean is let’s return to prudential regulation focusing on banks — not the investment banks, holding companies, insurance companies or shadow banking activities. What they [officials] mean is let’s go back to the world we mostly had before the financial crisis.”
曾在财政部帮助起草《多德-弗兰克法》的密歇根大学(University of Michigan)教授迈克尔巴尔(Michael Barr)表示：“本届行政当局的意思似乎是让我们回到专注于银行的审慎监管——而不是投行、控股公司、保险公司或者影子银行业务。他们（官员们）的意思是让我们基本上回到金融危机前的那个世界。”
As Goldman’s president, Mr Cohn argued told the Obama administration that Dodd-Frank caused bond market liquidity to dry up. Democrats view the bank’s claims with scepticism, but they are no longer in charge.
In Mr Blankfein the emboldening effect of the Trump administration is unmistakable. In June he criticised policymakers’ response to the financial crisis as an “over-reaction”, a striking shift from his words in 2010. The bank’s lobbying reflects the change. A weakening of the Volcker rule is not guaranteed, but it is now within Goldman’s grasp.
Additional reporting by Ben McLannahan in New York
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