Elizabeth Warren Takes a Scalp: Antonio Weiss Withdraws from Nomination for #3 Position at Treasury

As readers may recall, Elizabeth Warren blasted the Administration’s nomination of a Lazard executive and senior mergers & acquisitions banker Antonio Weiss to the number three Treasury psot, assistant secretary for domestic finance. Warren’s grounds for objecting to Weiss were straightforward: his experience was no fit for the requirements of his proposed Treasury role. On top of that, he had been involved in and therefore profited from acquisitions called inversions that Treasury opposes because they reduce the taxes paid by the acquirer, which uses the acquired company to move its headquarters to a lower-tax jurisdiction.

Today Weiss withdrew as a candidate for the Treasury position. From Politico:

Antonio Weiss, the Wall Street banker who President Barack Obama had picked to be the third-ranking official at the Treasury Department, has asked that the president not resend his nomination to the Senate following a major backlash from progressive Democrats who questioned his ties to the financial industry, POLITICO has learned.

Obama accepted the decision, which Weiss conveyed in a letter to the president over the weekend. But the Lazard banker will still join the administration in the position of counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, which does not require Senate confirmation.

This is a defacto admission that Weiss was not going to stand up well under the hot lights and that the Administration had to back down on its efforts to stack senior Treasury positions with more Big Finance loyalists.

Cynics may say that the Administration has gotten its way by making Weiss a counselor, but it could have done that from the outset. This is the Administration trying to salvage the situation. Even though Weiss will still be able to get Wall Street friendly views into the mix at Treasury, that was already the bias. He will not have execution authority and his reputation has taken a dent, which will discourage other Wall Street cronies from taking nominations for positions senior enough to need Congressional approval.

It is also worth pointing out that Treasury has used the “counselor” role to include some individuals with particularly dubious track records on the Treasury team. One example under Geithner was Lee Sachs, a former Bear Stearns partner who later headed CDO manager Tricadia. Tricadia was widely seen as one of the worst in a businesses that was directly responsible for the severity of the financial crisis (see ECONNED for details). A New York Times editorial even took note of this seamy connection, pointing out that any investigation of CDO misconduct would reach into the Treasury department. I met with Lee Sachs along with a small group of bloggers who were invited to meet Geithner and other Treasury officials. Sachs could barely contain his contempt.

Having someone with that background as a well placed insider made it abundantly clear how serious the Administration was about cleaning up crisis-related abuses. Having Antonio Weiss, even in a lesser role at Treasury, will, as it did with Lee Sachs, inhibit any investigation into areas that relate to the work he did at Lazard. That’s a feature, not a bug. Having Antonio Weiss in Treasury in any capacity sends a powerful signal that Obama remains deeply committed to advancing the pet needs of major financial firms.

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    1. Vatch

      I’m with you! Unfortunately, Senator Warren isn’t on the Judiciary Committee, so she has a lot less clout on the Attorney General nomination. Here’s the website of the Senate Judiciary Committee members:


      Al Franken ( http://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=contact ) and Sheldon Whitehouse ( http://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/contact/ ) are both on the Judiciary Committee. Supposedly they are progressive voices in the Senate. Perhaps NC readers from Minnesota and Rhode Island could contact their senators about this.

      Here are Senator Warren’s committee assignments, for those who are curious:


  1. flora

    Sunshine, disinfectant.
    “…Weiss was not going to stand up well under the hot lights.” NC shines a bright light.
    Yes, Obama remains committed to advancing Wall St. over Main St., that hasn’t changed. But, he and the neolibs can be challenged and denied on these efforts when people have the information and respond. Good news. Thanks.

  2. heresy101

    A comment on Zerohedge puts things in context:
    “Weiss and his wife, Susannah Hunnewell’s attendance at Obama’s $35,800-a-plate fundraiser dinner in March 2012. “

    “Median household income has been on the rise for the past three years, climbing 3.8% to $53,891 in June, according to newly released data by Sentier Research. It’s yet another indication that the economic recovery is taking hold.

    But Americans have yet to fully heal from the Great Recession, which officially ended five years ago. Median income remains 3.1% below its June 2009 level of $55,589. That’s in large part because unemployment remained high in the early years of the recovery, according to Sentier. ”

    Weiss attended Yale College, Harvard Business School, and is a member of the Council On Foreign Relations.

    Weiss and his wife spend more on one meal with Barack than the gross median yearly income of most Americans.

    It IS a BIG CLUB and You ain’t in it.

    1. craazyman

      God save us from these people. The dude’s probably not a bad guy — for watching football and drinking a beer. He’s no worse than most people, probably, but no better.

      Ordinary, that is, in most ways except a capacity for financial self enrichment. Above average there for sure.

      speaking of politics and nonsense — Don’t you love the way the phrase ‘ordinary Americans” is thrown around. Or “average Americans” when you read the news?

      The idea of average is a strange idea for a thoughtful person with a quantitative apitiude and an appreciiation for forms that quantittes take as well as the equations that measure the quantities. The idea of average implies a pre-specified form, which is as much an abstraction as it is a reality. More so, I’d say. The average is also only a central tendency and not a descriiption of most measurements. most measurements are far away from average and so “average’ or ‘ordinary’ are falsities invented soley in politics for the convenience of lazy minds and for ease of slipping into state of amnesia in which all you see and all you know — all the multi dimesionalities and uniqueneses and eccentricities and potentials for bizarre beauties and creations — these are forgottten and what takes their place is a false and dull and meaningless abstraction.

      People that traffic in these delusions, and shout them from the pinnacles of the world in fiery speeches, or in op-eds or in essays — they are not frauds, so much as puppets of forces they neither understand or control, but are instead controlled by. As such they are certainly ordinary themselves and when they’re politicians they”re below average politicians, who throw abstractionns around about people instead of seeing through the masks they make and wear and place on things.

      The need is not for somebody to talk about ordinary people and avveragee Ameircams but for somebody to tell the truth and talk about how there is no such thing, that it’s a fiction, a bad fiction, a fiction lacking in all things fiction should be ,which is a window into a higher truth. “Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created–nothing.” – F Scottt Fitzgerald, openning sentence to The Rich Boy

      God save us from political charlatans of the soul and false accountants who measure a society and find ‘average Americans’ everywhere. They are nowhere to be found, only named and then the category itself is dignified into a reality or words but not a reality of life.

      This is the basest and most debauched illusion of them all. And our ordinary politicians and average operatives and below average politicians and below average operatives, they don’t see the reality that’s there for anyone willing to look with honest eyes and an honest mind. maybe they just can’t because they’re below average in the sorts of sensitivities that make the world a place that can be better than it is. And that’s why it is the way it is, and why change is coming so it won’t be so much that way anymore.

      1. craazyman

        there’s really nothing moderateable about that comment. although perhaps it could use a spell check

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          We don’t decide to put specific comments in moderation. You hit one of our pre-set tripwires. And it wasn’t that long before it was liberated.

          1. craazyman

            I was talking to the moderation filter software.

            There’s no need for you to take responsibility. You’ve got enough to do. You actually should lay around more and waste some time.

      2. Fool

        I mean, maybe? But you don’t know him. So the bongsmoke philosophy on bourgie banality wasn’t that necessary….

  3. Kurt Sperry

    Why on Earth would anyone vote for these Wall St. marionette Democrats? They aren’t the solution; they are in fact every bit as much the problem as their co-conspirators across the aisle.

    1. James Levy

      Are you counting Warren among them, because this would not be a data point amenable to that assertion.

  4. Ed Walker

    White collar thugs at Lazard give Weiss $20 million. But it’s not a bribe, so don’t you get all two-tier justice system on them.

  5. Greenbacker

    Clinton’s been moving the Democrats away from Wall Street for 5 years. My guess if he rewins the Presidency, you won’t have the overwhelming Wall Street personality in his 3rd term like his other terms. Instead you will have a strong domestic manufacturing lobby among other Clinton “initiatives”. Wall Street will come 2nd and its people will have to serve the Democrats new domestic agenda. It is why they are flopping money into the Republicans like mad. No way 4 years ago, does a man like Weiss not get the job. Clinton hit him over the head with a chair.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Clinton is as thick with Wall Street as ever. Go look at the list of speakers and participants at the Clinton Global Institute.

      Clinton tried pushing for a variant of that strategy in 1993, when finance was much less dominant than now. It was a big disaster poll and fundraising wise in part because it didn’t show results quickly. Clinton fell into line and started advocating the Rubin “strong dollar” line, which is good for the US as a financial center and bad for the real economy. I’m doing this from memory, but it is described in detail in Tom Ferguson’s book Golden Rule.

    2. flora

      “Instead you will have a strong domestic manufacturing lobby among other Clinton “initiatives”. ”
      um, like NAFTA?

    3. TedWa

      So you’re saying that Clinton would love to make up for the mistakes of the past during his term? That would be something to look forward too, but I doubt he or she could get Glass-Stegall back. She did say thought recently, that corporations do not create jobs which caused quite a stir among the Repubs. If this election is to be a type of make-up exam for the Clintons, to get it 100% right, then I’ll need to re-think my opinions of them when the time comes. Lets see what else she has to say. Right now my dream team is Sanders and Warren for the 2 top spots.

  6. mattie

    Yves – Dayen’s article about Weiss at Salon is a must-read.

    With this move, the president has deprived Warren of a pre-election opportunity to shine a national spotlight (confirmation hearings) on the true issues and what’s really at stake for America’s middle class… And the Democratic party.

    1. Fool

      Not really, though?

      “His deal-making has led directly to tens of thousands of lost jobs and billions in bonuses and stock options for top executives and money managers, who in many cases loot the companies they acquire.”
      -To hold Weiss as personally responsible for the “crapification” of the American economy is, for lack of a better word, simple. Because he did mergers and mergers result in layoffs and something-something jobs overseas? By Dayen’s logic, I could argue that his consumer habits have “led directly to tens of thousands of lost jobs…”. I mean, has he tracked the supply chain of his clothes to ensure they were not made by a 7 year old in Bangladesh? Yadayada…oil from the Middle East, copper from the Congo, diamonds from everywhere, etc.; in short — and, I emphasize, through Dayen’s logic — our consumption habits conduce exploitation. Globalization.

      My gripe, you could say, is that it’s a shame that the fight against oligarchic influence by the financial industry — a noble fight — is too often fought by idiots too lazy to bother with facts. With that said, thank god for Naked Capitalism, a refuge for actually thoughtful revolutionary discourse.

      And for the record, I’m someone who supported Warren’s position re. Weiss….

  7. Jill

    I feel I am being propagandized to adore and eventually vote for Warren as president. Why? Because she is not alone in this fight, although she is the only person named: “But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who came out strongly against the nomination, along with some others progressive Democrats…” I notice this policy in every article. Even though there is a coalition of people opposing something, the only person mentioned in Warren. That is propaganda. When a group of people work together, it’s all of them, not just the one Democrats want to run for president/vice president.

    Further, the article mentions Warren refused to call the nominee out-she sited evil Republicans (a familiar tactic among Democrats who just wiped out many people’s pension rights under the old Congress.) “Warren issued an oblique statement on the Weiss news, never mentioning him by name. “We’ve already seen that the new Republican Congress is going to aggressively attack the Dodd-Frank Act…” Not exactly a profile in courage.

    When Warren worked for the administration, she was more than willing to go along with illegal shenanigans. She could have resigned and exposed the illegalities by the administration. That is what she did with her position. Yes, she has opposed things which deserve opposition. All easy to do and good for getting the lefty Democrats on board. This is Obama 2.0. If we fall for this again, shame on us.

    1. flora

      um, Warren is on the Senate Banking Committee, where many of these questions are raised and where her expertise and very specific questioning can come to the fore. I don’t think it’s propagandizing to report on this, anymore than reporting Bernie Sanders’ statements on labor and pensions (he’s on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee) is propagandizing for Sanders. just my opinion.

    2. TedWa

      I don’t know if it can really be said that she was for the corruption before this. When Congress passed unanimously a bill to forgive all the banksters for clouding every mortgage note they had their hands on and the robo-signing, Warren called Obama and told him that this bill was illegal and he pocket vetoed it.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Warren is not running for President. She isn’t building an organization, which she’d need to be doing NOW to be a candidate. She has said she’s not running again, today, in Fortune.

      If Hillary stumbles badly (which I see happening only via health issues, but the odds of that are not trivial), she could be drafted. I don’t know how that would play out, particularly since Bernie is running (the Dems seem very keen to have a women, it’s women’s turn to loot). But Warren is not seeking the office.

      1. Jill

        That’s what she said about the Senate. ” In seeking to enlist Ms. Warren for a different campaign, Democrats are taking aim at two birds. They can lay the groundwork for a potential compromise over a different candidate to lead the new agency and, they hope, they can increase their chances of reclaiming Mr. Brown’s seat by sending against him a woman who has won considerable acclaim and popularity among liberals for taking on the financial industry.

        Ms. Warren, 61, a law professor at Harvard, has lived in Massachusetts since the early 1990s, commuting in recent years to work in Washington.

        In response to a question about whether she would enter the race, a spokeswoman for the agency, Jen Howard, said Monday, “Elizabeth Warren is 100 percent focused on building the new consumer agency.” She wasn’t running but 100% focused on the Consumer Protection Bureau.”


        Then there’s this: “Case in point: In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said he planned to serve out his full term in the Senate, but he ultimately decided to run for president.” ABC News.

        There are many organizations fund raising on her behalf. Ultimately, we will see what will happen.

  8. Phil Snead

    liberal? Really!?

    After all, though, what could be more kumbayah touchy-feely than holding bankers accountable before the law?

  9. steelhead23

    This is very good news indeed and much of the credit should go to Mrs. Warren. I assume that Mrs. Warren or one of her staffers regularly read NC, so I hope she sees this. If she intends to be effective in championing the interests of working people, she must run for president. In the senate she would be little more than a Democratic beard, helping, ever so slightly, to hide the fact that the Democratic Party has been largely captured by the elite. Frankly, I am dying for a fight for the soul of the party. In my view, Mrs. Clinton is precisely the kind of Democrat we should be fighting – an elitist, more concerned with her own future than ours and willing to do whatever it takes to stand grand. Is that the kind of president you want to serve, Liz?

  10. ErnstThalmann

    Might someone do us a favor and take Elizabeth Warren’s scalp? Until she deals with her noxious support of Israeli policy in Gaza, attempts to cast her as the next “progressive” hope have about as much authenticity as Obama’s bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan. We need a redo of Henry Wallace or Upton Sinclair, not some half -baked, Lobby-purchased show-off. Please with the attempts at scrubbing this phoney’s image.

  11. Tiercelet

    This is good news, but I have two words for us all:
    Harriet Miers.

    The first bad nominee is often only a stalking-horse for the second. (And no doubt there’s a pretty deep back bench for someone determined to nominate terrible candidates…)

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