Goldman Sachs, financial firms flood agencies to influence financial law, new Dodd-Frank tracker shows


Investment bank Goldman Sachs, one of the major players in the crisis that led to the economic meltdown of 2008, has had more meetings with government officials about the implementation of the law intended to reform the financial system than any other company or organization, an analysis of nearly a year’s worth of financial agency meeting logs shows.

The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has made those logs–published by five separate federal agencies–available in one location in and easy-to-search format, updated to include the most current information on contacts between officials and private interests seeking to influence federal regulators. 

Agency officials reported 83 meetings with Goldman Sachs executives across numerous agencies. In June alone, government agencies reported 21 meetings with the firm–or almost one meeting for every workday that month. And on one day, June 14, Goldman Sachs representatives were present at four separate meetings with officials from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), to discuss various aspects of swap trading rules and reporting.

Overall, government officials have reported more than 2,100 meetings with outside parties since the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act last year. Other institutions showing up at the top of the most frequent visits list include JP Morgan Chase, with 73 meetings, Morgan Stanley, with 58 meetings, and Bank of America, with 55 meetings. These institutions, the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars in government aid at the height of the economic meltdown, have much to gain–or lose–depending on how agencies write rules mandated under the new law.

While unions and advocacy groups have also made contact with financial agency officials, they have done so less often, and many of those encounters have been with Elizabeth Warren, the adviser charged with setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as opposed to higher ranking agency officals. For example, Consumers Union attended four meetings, all of them with Warren. The conservative American Enterprise Institute logged two meetings, one with Warren. The AFL-CIO shows at a half dozen meetings, two of which were with Warren. In contrast, Goldman Sachs executives counted two meetings with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and seven with CFTC chairman Gary Gensler. Firm executives also had two meetings with Warren.

The records are culled from disclosures made the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission and CFTC, which voluntarily made them public. However, each agency began its log at different points last year, and each one follows a different policy and format, making it difficult to track activity across the government. So while the CFTC, which began publishing details on its meetings within a week of Dodd-Frank's enactment in July 2010 and makes those records available daily, soon after the meetings occur, the Treasury Department did not begin releasing its logs until the following November, and posts a monthly compilation with a one-month time lag.

Despite the differences in format and release schedules, the logs reveal a wealth of information of how outside interests influence how the regulatory sausage is made. For example, representatives from the lobbying firm Delta Strategy Group, which was founded in 2010 by the former chair of the CFTC, James Newsome, is reported present at 44 meetings, all of them at his former stamping grounds. The firm has reported receiving $1.6 million from its clients since 2010, including CME Group (also a former Newsome employer); the oil company Hess Corporation; and Gavilon, a commodity management firm.

Another lobbying firm that shows up near the top of the list is Sullivan and Cromwell, with 29 meetings, which has reported $680,000 in federal lobbying since 2010. The firm is home to partner H. Rodgin Cohen. While not registered as a lobbyist, Cohen is called the "dean of the Wall Street lawyers," by the New York Times. Cohen helped provide key advice to government officals in structuring the financial bailout–and counts many big banks as clients.

Overall, Elizabeth Warren averaged more reported meetings, an average of 18 a month, than any other government official. Warren's meeting records often include dozens of attendees; additional details are often available on her public calendar. CFTC chairman Gary Gensler averaged 12 reported meetings per month. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has reported a total of just ten meetings.