Obama Considering American Express CEO For Treasury Secretary

Obama Considering American Express CEO For Treasury Secretary

Having spent his first term bashing credit card companies and the mega rich, President Barack Obama is considering adding a credit card company CEO worth $125 million to his cabinet.

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault reportedly tops the White House list of possible Treasury Secretary or Commerce Secretary replacements.  With an estimated net worth of $125 million, Forbes calls Mr. Chenault one of the richest blacks in America.  He and his wife are also big Democratic Party donors, having contributed over $139,250 to Democrats.  In 2011, Mr. Chenault’s total compensation at American Express was $23,038,691.

Appointing a super wealthy credit card industry executive would be a departure from the “get tough” rhetoric Mr. Obama used against credit card companies during his first term. In April 2009, after meeting in the White House with credit card executives, Mr. Obama thundered, “The days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late fee traps have to end.  No more fine print, no more confusing terms and conditions.” 

And while building support for his credit card “Bill of Rights” legislation, Mr. Obama publicly trashed credit card companies for preying on the 99 percent: “People are finding themselves starting off with a low rate, and the next thing that you know, their interest rate has doubled,” said Mr. Obama. “There have to be strong and reliable protections for consumers.”

But now all that seems not to matter. 

Indeed, Democrats seem to have a way with credit card companies.  In 2008, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi got cut in on one of the most coveted initial public offerings (IPO) in history when she secured the chance to buy into the Visa credit card IPO.  She bought 5,000 shares of Visa at $44 a share just as legislation threatening credit card companies was moving its way through the House.  Two days later Pelosi’s Visa stock was worth $64.  The then-Speaker made sure the bill never made it to the House floor.

Whether Mr. Obama taps Mr. Chenault to the Treasury post or Commerce position is presently unclear.  Sources close to the process have told Bloomberg News that White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew remains the leading contender to become Mr. Obama’s next Treasury Secretary.