Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Putting into Place the Last Piece of the Influence Puzzle: Senator Greg

Putting into Place the Last Piece of the Influence Puzzle: Senator Greg

Former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) has just been named the Chief Executive Officer of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).  The SIFMA represents brokers, banks, and asset managers lobbying on everything from the Dodd-Frank Act to the Volcker Rule.  As you might expect, SIFMA has been working feverishly to water down and delay the myriad of proposed regulations working their way through SEC and other agencies. 

New Models (2009)

However, you’d never know what SIFMA is all about from reading Senator Gregg’s comments upon accepting his new position.  The Senator deftly references Main Street instead of Wall Street in describing his vision of the role of the financial services industry.

“It is an honor to join SIFMA as CEO. America’s success and prosperity depends on a vibrant financial system providing access to capital and credit that helps people on Main Streets across America build on their dreams of opening a small business, saving to be able to send their children to college, buying their first home or saving for retirement.”

The Senator has placed himself at the intersection of politics and Wall Street.  Just to make sure that SIFMA has all it has covered all its political bases and houses of Congress, it also named former representative Kenneth Bentsen, Jr. (D-TX) President of the association.  You might recognize Mr. Bentsen’s last name.  He is the nephew of the late Senator, Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX).

Apparently the financial services industry didn’t have enough influence with Congress and the regulatory agencies, so they hired an ex-US Senator.  It’s not like Senator Gregg needs the money.  When he left the Senate in 2010 his net worth was estimated at $6.6 million, so I don’t think he took the job because he needed a paycheck.  Moreover, while he was waiting out Congress’s two-year prohibition on lobbying after leaving office, Goldman Sachs hired him as an international advisor.

I have a little bit of sympathy for Congressional staffers who go through the revolving door in order to make more money.  Most of these folks don’t have Senator Gregg’s balance sheet, and have a host of personal obligations to satisfy.  As I’ve written (“My Own Spin Through the Revolving Door [January 30, 2013]”), I grappled with the conflicts inherent in moving from government into the private sector.

Senator Gregg’s appointment to head the SIFMA brings the problem of the revolving door to a new level.  Whatever it is that Wall Street has been unable to buy through campaign contributions, it will now be able to seek through the privileges granted to an ex-Senator. 

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