Upbeat bankers clashed with pessimistic economists on the opening day of the World Economic Forum, where the movers and shakers of global politics and business argued over whether to move forward with financial reforms — or to abandon what some claim would be a ruinous path toward over-regulation.
Just hours ahead of President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, bosses from Deutsche Bank, Lloyd’s and other financial giants warned on Wednesday that a flood of new regulations risked choking off a global economy recovery. Others urged Obama, who has proposed restricting bank risk-taking, to push forward with stronger reforms.
The discussions in the rarefied air of this Swiss Alpine resort reflected the broader debate and anxiety over the global economy, and how to address an uneven recovery powered by a booming China and held back by high unemployment in the United States and other wealthy nations.
"Let's get good regulation, better regulation, but not more regulation," said Peter Levene, chairman of British bank Lloyd's. Peter Sands, the CEO of Britain's Standard Chartered Bank, added that his industry already has been "fundamentally changed" by tighter regulations and supervision, while Deutsche Bank Chairman Josef Ackermann said "we will all be losers" if governments clamp down on markets too zealously.
"The pendulum might have swung too far," Ackermann warned.
"Consistent and global rules, and a level playing field is absolutely key to the global economy."
Obama is expected to push Wednesday evening for greater regulation of Wall Street, and there are calls in the United States and Europe for tougher taxation on financial institutions to recoup the billions governments have doled out in rescue packages since 2008.