London/New York — On the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, the front page of the Financial Times carried a photograph of John Thain, then CEO of Merrill Lynch. He was getting into his car after hours of talks at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and looked like a man who had stared into the abyss. In the following days more pictures would emerge of bankers leaving crisis meetings with policymakers, their ashen faces a portent of the horror to come.

As coronavirus rages and brings the global economy to a near standstill, bankers are once again roaming the corridors of power. In early March, US President Donald Trump summoned the CEOs of Bank of America, Citigroup and other large lenders to the White House, while Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, has held meetings and calls with their counterparts in Britain.

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