"They see this opportunity and they're pushing it, and a lot of the business community is not in particularly good shape right now," he said.
Obama has channeled some of the public anger himself, often talking tough about the practices of corporate chief executives and U.S. corporations. He slammed them last month for abusing overseas tax loopholes as he proposed a plan to close the loopholes.
Locke, the administration's chief liaison to the business community, said Obama was committed to helping businesses even though he has criticized of some of their practices.
"It's no different than a parent who says to a child, 'I am very disappointed in your behavior here, and we think what you did is wrong and unwise, but we still want you to succeed,' " Locke said.
Obama has alternated between tough talk and engagement. In recent weeks he has met with CEOs from banks, credit card issuers, pharmaceutical companies and insurers. And he has sympathized with their plight even as he has pushed for changes.
"Credit card companies provide a valuable service; we don't begrudge them turning a profit," he said in signing the new law Friday. "We just want to make sure that they do so while upholding basic standards of fairness, transparency and accountability."
Locke said the economic realities of issues such as rising healthcare costs combined with Obama's commitment to tackle them had led to new partnerships.
"You're seeing all this collaboration and cooperation simply because all the forces are in alignment for change," he said. "You have an American public very much wanting solutions to these tough issues, you have a president who was elected on the promise of change, you've got control of Congress that will support the president, and the business community wants change as well."