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Bankers shift retreat plan

The Financial Services Roundtable moves its meeting from a luxury

February 12, 2009|Sarah Gantz

Under fire for planning a meeting at a luxury hotel at which proposed changes in labor laws would be discussed, a national lobbying group of banking executives has canceled plans for a Florida retreat.

The Financial Services Roundtable, which includes executives whose firms are receiving federal bailout money, had planned until Wednesday to hold its spring meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, on Florida's Gulf of Mexico.

But then a union group sent a letter to key members of Congress, complaining that the group would be discussing ways to block the liberalization of labor organizing laws at the three-day event in March.

Now the bankers will discuss retirement security and labor union issues, among other things, at an undisclosed location in Washington, D.C.

Labor groups were outraged that the Roundtable, a lobbying group that filed $7.76 million in expenses in 2008, would discuss how to handle unions from the comfort of the Ritz-Carlton, where a room with a view of the gulf front costs $559.

"I think it's disgraceful," said Michael Gartland, a spokesman for Change to Win, an organization of unions that says the Roundtable has lobbied against the union workers' rights. "It's outrageous, it's appalling."

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was invited to speak at the event, according to the invitation, but said through a spokesman that he had declined. "Mr. Frank is not attending," the chairman's spokesman, Steven Adamske, said in a one-line e-mail.

When contacted Wednesday night, the Roundtable's senior vice president, Scott Talbott, confirmed that the meeting had been moved. "In these difficult times, it's not appropriate to hold it in Florida," he said. The event was planned five years in advance, he said.

Talbott said he was not certain when the meeting had been relocated to Washington. But the hotel's reservations contact for the event, who did not give her name, said the location had been changed Wednesday.

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sgantz@tribune.com

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