Credo Action

Tell the President: Don’t renominate banker as Treasury official

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Petition to President Obama:

"Financial reform and consumer protection are too important to fill the job with someone who has spent his life working on behalf of Wall Street banks and big corporations. Please show that you have heard these concerns by not renominating Antonio Weiss as Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance when Congress returns in 2015."

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    Tell the President: Don’t renominate banker as Treasury official

    You and Senator Elizabeth Warren have sparked a backlash against the nomination of banker Antonio Weiss to a key role at the Treasury Department.

    More than a hundred thousand CREDO members have spoken out. And in recent days, more and more Democratic senators have followed your lead – from die-hard progressives like Senator Al Franken to conservatives like Senator Joe Manchin.1 We’ve also forced this nomination into the public eye, resulting in a round of prominent voices criticizing Weiss as unqualified and the wrong fit for the role. 2

    President Obama has a chance to undo this mistake. Tuesday night, Congress left town for the holidays. If the president wants to ignore the growing chorus and place Weiss in this role, he’ll have to renominate him when Congress returns. It’s up to us to show the president that renominating Weiss would be the wrong call.

    Tell the president: Listen to your base. Don’t renominate an investment banker as a Treasury official.

    Last week, Congress passed a government funding bill that contained a huge handout to Wall Street, in the form of a provision that undermined part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform. Big banks essentially admitted that certain financial deals were not profitable unless they were conducted by a bank that can borrow money cheaply because it is guaranteed by the government, and lobbied hard to undo the provision that would have forced them to “push out” these credit default swaps to a subsidiary. JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon even called lawmakers personally. Unfortunately, while Senator Warren and progressive members of the House led the opposition, President Obama pushed Democrats to vote in favor of this handout that makes it more likely we will need to bail out big banks in the future.3

    While President Obama has taken a number of bold, progressive measures since the 2014 midterms, this was a giant step backwards. We need him to show that he recognizes his mistake and the peril of expanding Wall Street power by choosing a different Treasury nominee.

    At stake is everything from economic policy-making to the implementation of Wall Street reforms. As Deputy Undersecretary for Domestic Finance, Weiss would oversee the implementation of the 2009 Dodd-Frank Act. Yet despite his long career on Wall Street, he doesn’t have much direct experience with areas outside his background in mergers and acquisitions. Putting someone with little experience but lots of friends at the biggest banks in charge of Wall Street reform is quite simply a recipe for disaster.

    Tell the president: Listen to your base. Don’t renominate an investment banker as a Treasury official.

    After Elizabeth Warren called Weiss unfit for job, she was attacked by everyone from right-wing media to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New York Times’ Dealbook. But because all of you showed that you were standing alongside her, we actually picked up momentum in the face of these attacks. In just the last week, Senators Dick Durbin, Al Franken, Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders, and Jeanne Shaheen all announced they would oppose his nomination. A number of other senators announced that they had serious reservations, but would wait until they could speak with Weiss personally.4

    In fact, just last week former International Monetary Fund chief economist Simon Johnson said Weiss has "no known relevant qualifications or experience" for this role, adding, “It's hard to think of any senior fiscal official from a serious country with qualifications as weak as those of Mr. Weiss.” Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chair Sheila Blair rightly asked, “Why can't we have a consumer advocate as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance?” 5

    Tell the president: Listen to your base. Don’t renominate an investment banker as a Treasury official.

    It is easy to understand why so many people have spoken out against this nomination. Weiss is a lifelong Wall Street investment banker and partner at Lazard. Most recently, he came under fire for advising Burger King on its tax-dodging merger with Tim Horton’s.6

    We need President Obama to recognize his mistake of aligning with the Wall Street cronies in the Democratic party, and make a different call by siding with Main Street.

    Senator Warren was elevated to the leadership precisely to set this sort of winning tone. Now that we’ve shown that the grassroots stand behind her, and many senators are joining it, we need to increase the pressure.

    Tell the president: Listen to your base. Don’t renominate an investment banker as a Treasury official.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    1. Jennifer Bendery, "Joe Manchin Joins Democrats Opposed To Obama Treasury Pick Antonio Weiss" HuffingtonPost.com, December 11, 2014.

    2. Jennifer Bendery, "Obama Nominee Antonio Weiss Takes More Hits Over Qualifications For Treasury Post," HuffingtonPost.com, December 9, 2014.

    3. Steven Mufson and Tom Hamburger ,"Jamie Dimon himself called to urge support for the derivatives rule in the spending bill," WashingtonPost.com, December 11, 2014.

    4. Bendery, "Joe Manchin Joins Democrats Opposed To Obama Treasury Pick Antonio Weiss."

    5. Bendery, "Obama Nominee Antonio Weiss Takes More Hits Over Qualifications For Treasury Post."

    6. Craig Giammona, "Tim Hortons Shareholders Vote to Sell Company to Burger King," Bloomberg.com, December 9, 2014.