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These professionals work around the clock to ensure that none of the new laws adversely affects the interests of banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and private equity firms.

The lobbyists target EU politicians like Burkhard Balz, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from the northern German city of Hanover and a former banker himself.

Philipponnat runs the organization, which will soon have a team of a dozen people.

"When I heard about the project, I knew right away that it was the job for me," says the 50-year-old Frenchman.

People who know Philipponnat describe him as a "doer," as "extraordinarily competent" and as someone who tenaciously sticks to issues while also being able to "inspire and enthuse" others.

"Philipponnat has a rare dual function, which makes him practically predestined for Finance Watch," says Sven Giegold, a member of the European parliament with Germany's Green Party.

"The financial industry is extremely fascinating, intellectually challenging and very dynamic," Philipponnat says.

He isn't bothered by the fact that some in the industry have become filthy rich.

"Everything is a little new here," he says, "but we'll figure it out." Indeed, some things will take getting used to in the offices Finance Watch has just leased near the building housing the European Parliament in Brussels.In mid-October, Philipponnat spoke for the first time as an expert at a hearing on whether to require European banks to have higher equity capital requirements.Last Sunday, when EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss how to battle the euro crisis, Finance Watch appealed to them to take a closer look at the balance sheets of major banks.If you listen around in Brussels, you can hear about the opulent dinners members of parliament have in the city's most expensive restaurant during which representatives of a major bank will explain to them why their speculation in agricultural commodities has absolutely no effect on the world's food supply.

Or about the amendments to existing legislation that are sent to members of parliament prewritten, and of the printed copies of voting lists that explain to the parliamentarians exactly which box to check.The petition initially had 22 signatures, but soon more than 140 politicians in Brussels -- from all member countries and the entire range of political parties -- added their signatures.