Golden Throne Award Goes to Tim Ryan, Spinmeister for U.S. Securities Industry

T. Timothy Ryan, Jr.The Center for Media and Democracy and BanksterUSA are pleased to present our Golden Throne Award to T. Timothy Ryan Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). SIFMA is the leading behind-the-scenes lobby group representing big banks and investment firms, as well as broker-dealers and other peddlers of financial instruments, which Warren Buffett labeled "weapons of mass destruction." SIFMA lobbies Congress and financial regulators, and handles securities-related press for some of the biggest players in the financial crisis--Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and Fidelity Investments.

The Golden Throne Award salutes the lobbyists and spinmeisters who have managed to hold off meaningful financial services reform since the Wall Street meltdown. The award is being presented to SIFMA as the largest lobbying conference for the securities industry gets underway in Washington, D.C. this week at the Gaylord National Hotel. The award invokes fond memories of the $1.2 million bathroom renovation ordered by Merrill Lynch's CEO, John Thain, shortly before the firm lost $27 billion and collapsed into the arms of Bank of America. "In their relentless lobbying for deregulation of the securities industry, Tim Ryan and SIFMA bear unique responsibility for the collapse of the global economy. For that reason alone they deserve the Golden Throne, but their recent 'turn pitchforks into ploughshares' PR campaign also deserves special recognition. Few financial industry lobbyists have worked harder to convince the American public that they are on their side, even while they lobby to stymie any crackdown on business-as-usual on Wall Street," said Mary Bottari of BanksterUSA. Securitization is the process by which assets such as mortgages, auto loans, student loans and consumer loans are bundled into bonds and sold to investors. Securitization of toxic mortgages - which were sliced and diced, bundled into complex instruments and sold around the world - was a key cause of the global financial collapse. SIFMA has been a important proponent of deregulating the securities industry. Bernie Madoff and his brother have both sat on SIFMA's board of directors. Now that the industry is under Congressional scrutiny for its role in the crisis, Tim Ryan has spent the last year executing an elaborate PR campaign to blunt "populist overreaction” to the financial crisis and convince average Americans, who are experiencing 10 percemt unemployment and record foreclosures, that big banks and investment firms are actually on their side.

"Cashroots" Campaigning

Shortly after the financial collapse, a secret memo of confidential meetings surfaced that revealed SIFMA'S plans to portray themselves as "part of the solution" in order to counter the populist "lynch mob" demanding financial reform. SIFMA kicked off the "execution phase" of their "grassroots" campaign in June 2009, spending $85,000 per month to target policy makers and the news media in New York, London, Washington, and Brussels in an effort to repair their tarnished image. Michele Davis, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's former spokeswoman, and Jim Wilkinson, his former chief of staff, are among those leading the effort. SIFMA's website claims "phone calls and e-mail from constituents were a critical component of getting TARP legislation passed last year, and they will be vital again in 2009." Because these constituents are made up of banks and securities dealers, CMD coined the term "cashroots" rather than grassroots for this type of campaigning.

SIFMA Campaign Contributions

SIFMA helps to put the "big" into the biggest lobbying sector in the country, the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate industries. In 2007 and 2008, SIFMA spent $9 million dollars lobbying against meaningful reform of the financial markets. Over ten years, SIFMA and its parent companies have spend an eye-popping $102, 206, 643 on lobbying according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2008 election cycle, SIFMA's PAC spent over a million dollars trying to influence the outcome of federal elections. The PAC donated $10,000 a pop to dozens of key policymakers, including Representatives Melissa Bean (D-IL), John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Paul Kanjorski (D-PA).

SIFMA Lobbying Activities

Ryan, who earns about $2 million a year, has redefined support for financial reform bills as support for loopholes in those bills that help his clients. Ryan helps SIFMA lobby against disclosure rules, conflict of interest standards and capital requirements for derivatives trading, against breaking up "too big to fail institutions" and the reinstitution of firewalls that once kept bank holding companies from gambling with consumer savings. SIFMA loved the TARP bailout, but is not fond of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency. SIFMA has coordinated lobbying plans for the industry by throwing over 60 strategy conferences, including a regular shindig in Washington so that its members can mingle with government officials. This year, the American Securitization Forum (ASF) takes place in Washington, D.C. from January 31st through Feb 3rd.

Ryan's Rantings

Positive reinforcement for Secretary Paulson's 2008 then-unapproved plan for bailouts: "I agree totally with Secretary Paulson -- give us the money, give us the authority." CNBC, Sept. 26 2008.   Developing a narrative for the $787 billion TARP bailout: "I think everyone is really confused. This is not a bailout for Wall Street. This is a relief package for Main Street." CNBC, Sept. 26 2008. On embarrassingly large bank bonuses: "Are we sorry about what happened, we are. Are we into massive reform, we are. The compensation that you see come out in a few weeks will be massively different ... The system is really changing radically and we're not getting any credit for these reforms at all." CNBC, Jan. 11 2010.   When SIFMA lost Lehman Brothers' membership dues, it laid off 25 percent of its lobbying staff and commiserated with suffering American workers: "No one, least of all our industry, which lost tens of thousands of jobs, wants to repeat the difficulties of the past 18 months." USA Today, Aug. 6, 2009.   Fear-mongering on Financial Transactions Tax legislation which would tax speculative trading to pay for a jobs bill: "As all of you know. basically, Main Street is supported by activities in the financial sector. We need obviously jobs ... jobs should be the number one objective. This type of tax is totally counterproductive." CNBC, Dec. 4, 2009. On SIFMA's on-line games which train American youth in fun ways to manipulate the stock market: "Indeed, the industry’s overall contribution to charitable organizations far exceeds those of many other industries ... Increasingly, the struggles of the industry and the market have translated into greater interest in SIFMA’s Stock Market Game, which takes place among both students and teachers. Each year, we now have more than 800,000 students play. That adds up to more than 12 million students over the life of the program." Tim Ryan Annual Speech, Dec. 14, 2009.   On the death and life of too big to fail: "Second, we need to ensure no financial firm is too big or too interconnected to fail. In a dynamic capitalist system, every firm must be allowed to fail. To solve this problem, Bank of England governor Mervyn King recently suggested that the largest banks be broken-up. We disagree totally with that view." Tim Ryan Annual Speech, Dec. 14, 2009.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.