During a Wednesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Obama Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew pled ignorance to a $56,000 investment he held in a Cayman Islands fund registered to Ugland House, the exact building that President Barack Obama has called “the largest tax scam in the world.”
“I always reported all income, I always paid all taxes,” explained Lew. “I was aware that it was an international fund investing in emerging markets… I actually didn’t know [its location] at the time.”
The topic of Cayman Island tax-shelters became an issue during the 2012 presidential contest when Obama ran a blistering attack ad against Republican challenger Mitt Romney for having investments in the Caymans.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) drilled Lew about whether it was “morally acceptable” for him to take a nearly $950,000 bonus just days after Citigroup received billions in taxpayer-funded bailout money when Lew left his role as Citigroup chief operating officer.
“I was compensated for my work,” said Lew. “I do believe it was comparable for people in positions like mine in the industry. I don’t think there’s anything that hasn’t been fully transparent both in what I did and what I earned.”
Previously, Obama blasted Wall Street bonuses as “obscene,” calling them examples of “fat cats who are getting awarded for their failure.”
Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said Lew’s anemic answer on why he took a $950,000 bonus was akin to, “Gee, Dad, everyone was doing it.”
As the three-and-a-half-hour confirmation hearing drew to a close, however, Lew’s confirmation looked more certain. Indeed, Sen. Hatch himself complimented the Obama nominee. “Frankly, I think you did very well,” said Hatch.