The Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday to confirm Obama Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew. A floor vote is expected as soon as Wednesday, as Democrats scurry to ram through the increasingly controversial nominee.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported on the “oddity” of the decision by Lew’s former employer, New York University, to pay him a severance in 2006 when he voluntarily left to work for Citigroup. “NYU hasn’t explained why it would pay someone for quitting to take a job on Wall Street,” wrote the Journal.
Equally curious are the special terms of Jack Lew’s Citigroup contract, which contained a bonus guarantee even if Lew ditched the bank to go to a “high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”
As the Journal notes, the language in Lew’s Citigroup contract seems exactly backwards:
Most companies include incentives for top employees not to leave, but in this case the contract was written to reward Mr. Lew for treating the bank like a revolving door. Citi says it likes to accommodate employees who do public service or work at nonprofits. But the Lew contract was specific about a senior job in the federal government. There would be no special payout if he left to run the Red Cross or the New York state budget office.
But the Journal says it is all just part of how “Wall Street has become a get-rich-turnstile for Democratic political operatives.”
Citi has been an especially nice landing spot for big-shot Democrats. Former White House budget director Peter Orszag is now a Citigroup vice chairman and somehow finds time to write a column for Bloomberg News. And there was former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who was paid more than $115 million while encouraging the risk-taking that would have destroyed Citi if not for a taxpayer rescue.
Mr. Rubin was Mr. Lew’s patron at the bank. Mr. Lew’s contract suggests that Citi knew from the start that Mr. Lew was headed back to a powerful job in Washington, and that it wanted him to remember the bank fondly when he left.
If confirmed, Jack Lew will replace Timothy Geithner as the next Treasury Secretary of the United States.