West Wing Briefing

Excluded from invitation list for Obama's signing of Wall Street reform: Wall Street titans

By Michael D. Shear
Wednesday, July 21, 2010; 11:22 AM

When President Obama steps Wednesday onto the stage at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to sign Wall Street reform into law, many of the titans of Wall Street will be absent.

Among those who did not receive an invitation to be among the 400 people at the 11:30 a.m. bill signing: Morgan Stanley's James Gorman, Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein, Wells Fargo's John G. Stumpf and -- somewhat surprisingly -- J.P. Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon.

Dimon, of course, was an Obama confidant of sorts during the president's first year in office and was one of the most frequent guests in the West Wing, according to White House visitor logs.

But, as with the others, Dimon actively spoke out against the president's legislation, breaking with the White House and arguing that his reform plan was bad for the banks and the economy. Friend or no, that was enough to leave the mailbox empty this week.

"If you were part of an effort to spend millions of dollars opposing the legislation, you were not at the top of our list for an invitation," deadpanned Jen Psaki, the deputy communications director for the White House.

Psaki explained that the snub is nothing personal, and not part of an orchestrated message the West Wing is trying to send to Wall Street. Rather, she said, it is a recognition that the 400 seats at what she dubbed a "celebration" should be reserved for those who worked hard to make the moment possible.

She noted that Vikram Pandit, the chief executive of Citigroup, was invited and will be attending, as will Cam Fine, the chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Both worked with the White House to support passage of financial regulation changes over the objections of the Republicans in Congress.

In truth, though, the president's advisers are well aware that high-profile bill signings are often closely watched events. And the message they want to send over the next three months is decidedly not one of coziness with bank executives.

(Obama turns away from N.Y. Democratic donors)

White House aides said the president will focus his remarks Wednesday on the easier-to-understand parts of the legislation that benefit consumers: new rules for bank charges, mortgage forms and rate hikes. Obama will highlight the stories of several "average" Americans, including Andrew Giordano, a retired Vietnam veteran from the Baltimore neighborhood of Locust Point, who was inundated with overdraft fees from his bank because he was enrolled in an "overdraft protection" program for which he had not applied.

Also at the ceremony will be Robin Fox, a seventh grade teacher from Rome, Ga., who saw her interest rate on a credit card balance nearly double even though she paid her bills on time.

Obama will cite Giordano's and Fox's experiences, among others, in his speech, an advance copy of which was provided to reporters Wednesday morning.

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