— Nick Timiraos (@NickTimiraos) January 13, 2015
Antonio Weiss, the current global head of investment banking at Lazard, has asked President Obama to withdraw his name from consideration for Treasury Undersecretary For Domestic Finance. Weiss’ nomination to take a leadership role at Treasury offended numerous progressive groups and Democratic Senators committed to trying to clean up the corrupt “revolving door” relationship between Washington and Wall Street.
Most identified with the opposition to Weiss’ nomination was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who opposed him openly and claimed that as an investment banker who spent his career advising corporations on how to game the tax code and conduct corporate raids Weiss was not really qualified to be a regulator for domestic finance.
One instance that became emblematic was Weiss’ work as an advisor on the deal that merged Burger King with Tim Horton’s that was likely done in part so Burger King could become a Canadian company and avoid US taxes.
Weiss still plans to come to Washington and will serve in the Obama Administration as a counselor to former Citigroup executive and current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The position as counselor does not require Senate confirmation though it will allow Weiss to serve in government. His close connection to Lew will undoubtedly give him some informal authority and his “public” service will serve him well once he (inevitably) returns to the private sector.
The defeat of Weiss’ nomination is being hailed as a victory for progressives by the establishment and wannabe establishment press who are trying to show they are Very Serious People by regurgitating Wall Street talking points about Weiss and his nomination. The group CREDO was able to collect over 160,000 signatures in opposition to Weiss’ nomination and there was opposition to Weiss among the Democratic Senate caucus outside of Warren.
But whether this was a one-off temporal success or the beginning of a genuine change in the way DC does business remains to be seen.