Goldman Sachs Group Inc. doubled its lobbying expenses as it focused on proposed financial regulations and faced U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it misled investors.
New York-based Goldman, which paid $550 million last week to settle the SEC suit, spent $2.7 million to lobby during the first six months of 2010, more than double the $1.3 million it spent during the same period a year earlier, according to new congressional filings.
Several other financial institutions also increased their lobbying this year before congressional approval of the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the Great Depression. The measure was signed into law today by President Barack Obama.
Among the top 10 U.S. banks ranked by assets, six reported increases in lobbying spending between January and June compared with the same period in 2009.
Bank of America Corp. spent $2 million, up 33 percent from $1.5 million spent during the first six months of 2009. Wells Fargo & Co.’s spending rose to $2.3 million from $1.4 million in 2009. Morgan Stanley spent $1.6 million, compared with $1.4 million a year earlier, though its second-quarter lobbying expenses were lower than a year ago.
The banks’ trade group, the Washington-based American Bankers Association, spent $4.2 million, up from $3.9 million.
“The increase in our lobbying expenses reflects the additional analysis and legal support devoted to regulatory reform and related legislation as it evolved over the last several months,” said Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank by assets.
Mary Eshet, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, said the higher lobbying costs reflected the company’s growth following its acquisition of Wachovia Corp.
“It’s important to stay in tune with the conversations and decisions that occur in Washington, D.C., because so many of them impact our four most important stakeholders: our customers, our shareholders, our team members and our communities,” she said.
As the banks’ lobbying expenses grew, their contributions to lawmakers decreased. Bank of America’s political action committee made $496,500 in donations between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, down from $716,822 during the same 18-month period in 2007-08. Morgan Stanley’s PAC gave $303,500, down from $663,300 two years ago. New York-based Citigroup Inc.’s PAC contributions fell to $499,000 from $756,600.
Lawmakers reluctant to take money from banks blamed for causing the economic meltdown don’t have to worry about it now that Obama has signed the financial regulation bill into law, said Rogan Kersh, associate dean at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.
“Once the bill has passed, it’s much harder for their opponents or good-government advocates to claim that their vote was unduly influenced by campaign cash,” Kersh said.