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Banker Outrage at the WEF Party Scene

Take Davos, add banking and there is well-argued debate about the need to balance new regulation that can prevent another meltdown without stifling innovation in banking and free markets.

Take Davos, add banking and a few drinks after the sessions are over and the banker outrage bubbles up.

The party circuit at WEF is focused around the hotels on the Promenade near the Congress Center and a crawl around the hotspots revealed the indignation generated by President Obama’s proposals to separate proprietary trading units from banks and the banking bonus tax in the UK.

Barclays President Bob Diamond took some flak for saying there is no evidence that big banking is bad or riskier, but he has allies.

“What would you say if the government suddenly said TV stations can’t own Web sites?” one member of the financial services industry asked me.

There was an animated discussion at one bar between three men about how clawbacks of bonuses and high tax rates are government theft. (They paused only to replenish their champagne glasses.)

And there was plenty of speculation, as there has been at the WEF sessions and the in hallway chatter, that banks would simply move elsewhere. With all the talk of China’s power this week, Hong Kong seemed an attractive destination to many.

Add to that a sense that a great injustice is being done to Goldman Sachs. Why are they being punished for making money during the crisis?

As former Goldman vice chairman and current Under Secretary of State Bob Hormats grabbed a beer, someone shouted over the din: “Are you the last Goldman Sachs employee that will ever be confirmed for anything?”