New York Magazine:
Elizabeth Warren is already giving Wall Street executives serious agita. In their mind, the spunky senator-elect from Massachusetts is heading to Washington for one reason only: to destroy them and everything they stand for.
"Looking at her rhetoric on the campaign trail, she seems to take an exception to wealth creation and what banks do," said one bank executive. "It’s not really Wall Street she’s against — it’s banks, full stop," added another.
Banks have disliked Warren since her Harvard days, when she agitated against predatory lending, credit card fees, and other bank practices. And as her national profile grew through her work with TARP oversight and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the watchdog agency she helped create, their arm's-length opposition became a full-on war. Banks lobbied to keep her from being nominated to head the CFPB, then poured big donations into the campaign of Scott Brown, her Senate race opponent.
After her convincing victory in November, her appointment to the powerful Senate Banking Committee, where she would have actual oversight of the financial sector, is seen by many on Wall Street as a fait accompli.
"It’s all but certain she’ll be on the banking committee. If she isn’t, we’ll be among the most surprised people on earth," said one bank executive.
What scares Wall Street most is that, unlike many industry detractors, Warren can stand toe-to-toe with industry lobbyists on the nuances of regulation and the nature of complex financial products. She is also skilled at boiling esoteric points about Wall Street's excesses down to a pure, potent narrative of intentional malpractice. In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Warren took on banks using the kind of brusque language you don't hear all that often on Capitol Hill.
"People feel like the system is rigged against them," she said. "And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them."
The speech was booed by Republicans and mocked by Wall Street, but it was a hit everywhere else, even among legislators not traditionally known for their anti-bank rhetoric.
Wall Street threw just about every extra dollar they had at Scott Brown to help him defeat Warren and it simply was not enough. And they knew full well what they were in for if she won that race too.
Once Warren is named to the Senate Banking Committee, like everybody assumes she will be, she can immediately start working on financial reform, a task she clearly takes very seriously.
But being a junior Senator is there really THAT much she can accomplish?
Well according to Professor Simon Johnson, yes there is:
How much can a new senator accomplish? Within hours of her victory, some commentators from the financial sector suggested that no freshman senator could achieve much.
This is wishful thinking on their part.
A newly elected senator can have a great deal of impact if she is well informed on relevant details, plugged into the policy community and focused on a few key issues. It also helps if such a senator can bring effective outside pressure to bear – and Ms. Warren is a most effective communicator, including on television. She has an unusual ability to cut through technical details and to explain the issues in a way that everyone can relate to.
Oh yeah, this is going to be a very important career to keep an eye on. Personally I was ALMOST as excited about this victory as I was President Obama's.