Wall Street CEOs spent two days being grilled by lawmakers. Their companies gained more than $23 billion in market value.
The heads of the six biggest U.S. banks absorbed Democrats’ jabs over their firms’ treatment of consumers, climate change and for not doing enough to promote racial justice. Republicans chimed in, too, bashing lenders for shunning politically unpopular businesses in the U.S., while financing Chinese companies.
As the hits kept coming, bank stocks kept rising — indicating the executives mostly accomplished what they set out to do ahead of this week’s congressional hearings: Avoid embarrassing moments or clashes that could cast lasting shadows over their industry.
While the breadth of questions served as a reminder of the expansive reach of megabanks, the absence of fireworks underscored how well the firms fared during the economic turmoil that the pandemic unleashed. It was a far cry from what happened after the 2008 financial crisis when Wall Street was the villain and Washington aggressively tightened its leash.
“The goal for the CEOs with these hearings was to get through without anything that would result in more onerous regulation, and without anything that would cause them problems with shareholders,” said Ian Katz, an analyst at Capital Alpha Partners in Washington. “They largely succeeded.”