Vexation gives way to pragmatism as Wall Street girds for Trump
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A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
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By David Henry and Olivia Oran
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street power brokers may have rolled their eyes in private when ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Steven Mnuchin agreed to be Donald Trump's national finance chairman, but now they are lining up to meet him.
Financial lobbyists and their bosses are hoping that Mnuchin and others Trump has enlisted as advisers will help convey their views and act as interpreters of the president-elect's so far at times confusing messages.
"This is different from a lot of elections in the past where you could say, 'If so-and-so wins, this will be good for that industry and bad for that one,'" said Scott Bok, chief executive of investment bank Greenhill & Co Inc.
"It's not like Trump laid out a clear set of policies where you can say, 'This is good for these types of companies and bad for those.'"
Bankers and their lobbyists are hoping their path to influence will become clearer in the coming weeks with Trump's cabinet appointments.
"It is a matter now of getting to the people who are coming in and convincing them of the benefits of some moderate deregulation to foster economic growth," said one industry executive, who declined to speak publicly about Trump.
During the presidential campaign, many people on Wall Street had supported his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton viewing her as a pragmatist and a stabilizing force.
Despite castigating hedge fund managers for "getting away with murder" on their taxes and making a vague pledge to strip big banks of their profitable trading arms, Trump has surrounded himself with financiers including Mnuchin and hedge fund firm bosses John Paulson and Anthony Scaramucci.
At the time some of their peers thought they were taking an opportunistic punt as they viewed Trump as unpredictable and populist and were vexed by his snipes at the industry.
Six months later, government-relations executives for big banks are scrambling to secure meetings with them as well as key staffers on Capitol Hill's important financial committees, in hopes they can provide a sympathetic ear for the industry.
"That work begins immediately," said one industry lobbyist who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Trump's lack of political experience and his scattershot pronouncements have made him a wild card for big business, making private contacts with his inner circle especially critical.
On bank regulation, Trump has promised to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and implement a new, possibly tougher one, but offered few details on what it would look like.
Although Trump’s outsider status helped him win, he has turned to some well-known Washington insiders when looking to fill vacancies at U.S. financial regulators including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Former Republican SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins, who founded and heads the regulatory consulting firm Patomak Global Partners LLC, is leading the transition team for financial regulation, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Come January, Trump is expected to designate SEC Republican Commissioner Michael Piwowar as acting chair. It is unclear if Trump will make the role permanent or later tap someone new.
SEC Chair Mary Jo White, an independent appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013, is expected to leave the agency when Obama’s term is over.
Mnuchin is seen as the likely pick for Treasury Secretary. He did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
KBW policy analyst Brian Gardner predicts Vice President-elect Mike Pence will have a major influence on who gets appointed to key roles, and will choose "orthodox Republicans" who are equally familiar as some others in Trump's circle.
In an emailed statement, Scaramucci said Trump's reputation for unpredictability was undeserved.
"While spending time with President-elect Trump during the campaign I got to know a very analytical and compassionate person," Scaramucci, founder and a co-managing partner of investment firm SkyBridge Capital, said.
Several policy experts predicted Trump and the new Congress will water down some financial reform rules, such as the Durbin amendment that limits bank fees or the Volcker rule against proprietary trading. They uniformly expect diminished power, if not a gutting of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
But the Trump administration may also propose regulations that are more problematic, such as extremely high capital requirements or a revival of the Depression-era Glass Steagall law that broke up big banks.
Mnuchin, however, was cited by many as a ray of hope.
Although he has not publicly expressed opinions on financial regulation or fiscal policy, bankers and lobbyists said they felt reassured by his experience on Wall Street.
"I can't imagine that his goal would be to destroy Goldman Sachs," said the industry executive, "which is better than some."
(Additional reporting by Dan Freed, Suzanne Barlyn, John McCrank and Lawrence Delevingne in New York and Lisa Lambert, Patrick Rucker and Sarah N Lynch in Washington; Writing by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Carmel Crimmins)
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