On Main Street, Wall Street’s big profits seem like bad manners

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On Main Street, Wall Street’s big profits seem like bad manners

The Washington Post – NEW YORK — Any other year, blockbuster earnings would be something to brag about. But this is a precarious moment for Wall Street, as Congress buckles down on its efforts to pass a financial regulatory bill that could erase billions from the bottom lines of big banks.

"It's got to be mixed emotions — like your teenage daughter coming home at 3 a.m. with the Gideon Bible," said A. Gary Shilling, former chief economist at Merrill Lynch and president of an investment management and economic consulting firm.

On Wednesday, J.P. Morgan Chase kicked off the earnings season for big banks, reporting a stronger-than-expected $3.3 billion in first-quarter net income and raising expectations for its rivals, including Bank of America and Citigroup, which report earnings Friday and Monday, respectively.

Even as they express optimism about improving business outlook, senior banking executives acknowledge that times have changed. Gone are the days when big profits and big pay were the subject of public admiration and aspiration. They say they are attuned to ongoing debate in Washington and withering public criticism over strong profits and hefty bonuses generated with the help of federal bailout programs.

Industry officials say banks may seek to blunt those attacks against the entire sector by highlighting differences between individual financial institutions. Those efforts may include using shareholder meetings and earnings calls to emphasize their respective specialties, services and compensation structures.

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