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Hi,

Wall Street could now pay a steep price for short-term thinking, experts said, even if salaries and behavior have not caught up with public disillusionment. Hemmed in by new regulations, the big banks are being forced to give up proprietary trading. Fewer graduates of elite Ivy League schools are choosing careers in finance. And the anger is spreading, seen not only in the Occupy Wall Street protests but also in the increasing distrust among the most affluent consumers.

Fist of all, I'd like to talk about a if-clause in combination with even.

I'm going to the party even if Kim is not going.

This sentence entails that I'm going to the party, meaning I'm going to the party whether Kim is going or not.

So the main clause of the original example means as follows:

Wall street can/could now pay a steep price for short-term thinking whether salaries and behavior have caught up or not caught up with public disillusionment.

That's one way to look at it. What I mean by that is there can be another interpretation.

My grammar book says if the truth value of the complement of if is not at issue, the conditional implies a concessive.

ex) Even if you are my older brother, you don't have the right to tell me what to do.

=Although you are my older brother, you don't have the right to tell me what to do.

Viewed in this light, the original can be interpreted as follows:

Wall street can/could now pay a steep price for short-term thinking although salaries and behavior have not caught up with public disillusionment.

Q1) Which interpretation is more sensible?

Q2) I notice that only the main clause is backshifted. Correct?

Q3) If the main clause were written in direct speech, would the modal could be changed to can? Or would it stand as is?

A: Experts said, "Wall Street can now pay a steep price for short-term thinking, even if salaries ..."
B: Experts said, "Wall Street could now pay a steep price for short-term thinking, even if salaries ...."

Q4) I have trouble interpreting the meaning of the if-clause, mainly because of the phrase, "public disillusionment". I think the sentence means that salaries and behavior have not been adjusted for something.(where something corresponds to public disillusionment). But I'd like a more precise interpretation. Could you please help?

Thank you in advance.
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jooneWall Street could now pay a steep price for short-term thinking, experts said, even if salaries and behavior have not caught up with public disillusionment.
jooneyQ4) I have trouble interpreting the meaning of the if-clause, mainly because of the phrase, "public disillusionment". I think the sentence means that salaries and behavior have not been adjusted for something.(where something corresponds to public disillusionment). But I'd like a more precise interpretation. Could you please help?
1. Wall Street is the term people use to refer collectively to the major firms that trade stocks and other financial instruments.
2. "could" indicates a possible outcome. Using "can" is incorrect in this context.
3. It would be possible to replace "even if" with "although" but to my ear the original is better.
4. You are correct in your understanding. The high salaries of the people working in the firms and the arrogant behavior of the management have caused the public to lose confidence in Wall Street firms but, because they have been able to behave with arrogance and disregard of public opinion for so long, they have not yet adjusted to that reality and could pay the aforementioned steep price as a result.
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Thank you for your help, MalRey.