Banks Prep Defense for Anti-Wall Street Campaigns

Senior executives from seven banks met on March 31 to discuss options

WASHINGTON—Top executives from the biggest U.S. banks, concerned about anti-Wall Street rhetoric already bubbling up on the 2016 campaign trail, are working to push back against the prevailing narrative that banks are bad.

Senior executives from seven of the biggest U.S. banks gathered or dialed into a March 31 meeting on the 51st floor of the Bank of America Tower in New York to discuss the upcoming election cycle and how the firms can counteract what they view as false and damaging statements about large banks, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the meeting.

The effort underscores the degree to which Wall Street remains a political punching bag and a source of anger among lawmakers and the public nearly seven years after the financial crisis. Already, several presidential candidates have lobbed criticism at Wall Street and directly attacked big banks and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass) continues to exert pressure, warning about big banks’ efforts to roll back financial regulations.

The banks aren’t launching a new ad campaign or lobbying blitz, people familiar with the discussions said. And many bank officials are skeptical they can do much to counteract critics without triggering more damaging backlash.

The lunchtime gathering in March, organized by John Rogers, an executive vice president at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and James Mahoney, Bank of America Corp.’s head of corporate communications and public policy, focused on what various candidates have said on the campaign trail, which statements were troubling and how in the course of their regular communications and outreach work bank officials could set the record straight, according to one participant.

Read on.

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