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At this year’s Wharton Finance Conference, Edward DeSeve claimed, “I have no authority. I have no power.”

But his audience of MBA students and Wharton undergraduates might beg to differ.

DeSeve, as special advisor to Obama for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, coordinates the distribution of $787 billion stimulus funds and reports directly to Vice President Joe Biden. And Friday, DeSeve visited Philadelphia’s Park Hyatt to deliver a keynote address at the day-long Wharton Finance Conference.

According to conference organizer and Wharton MBA candidate Kwamena Aidoo, this year’s conference was crucial precisely because the recession has rendered the industry’s prospects nebulous. Ruth Porat, vice chairman of investment banking for Morgan Stanley, and Tony Ehinger, managing director of Credit Suisse, also spoke over the course of the conference.

As the ARRA has been critiqued by the media and government insiders, undergraduate organizing committee chair Jason Awad, a Wharton senior, said he was earger to hear DeSeve’s insights.

But DeSeve began his keynote address by recalling the first day he arrived at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall — then known as simply Dietrich Hall — as an MBA student, awestruck by the luxuries that came with the finance industry. That day, he said, “I was introduced for the first time to turtle soup and dirty vanilla ice cream.”

In his address, DeSeve said the curent economic crisis is “steeper and deeper than anything we’ve seen yet.” And although the GDP has grown 3.5 percent since the government implemented the ARRA, he emphasized that, “less bad isn’t good.”

During the first phase of the ARRA, DeSeve said, “I was stupid.”

He added that he still doesn’t know the shape that this recession is going to take, but because of the ARRA, “the GDP is growing, but jobs aren’t.”

As a result, the recession “hasn’t yet turned the corner,” according to DeSeve.

He emphasized that he and his crew are currently working to fix what many call the “jobless recovery.”

Despite the recent critiques DeSeve has provoked from the media, he emphasized that he is working hard to make sure that the recovery money gets where it needs to be and gives the American people the most bang for their tax dollars.

“I don’t know if Glenn Beck is in the audience, but I am not a czar,” DeSeve stated. Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he repeated: “Not a czar.”

More specifically, DeSeve said, “I am simply a coordinator.”

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