December 10, 2014

Manchin Opposes Antonio Weiss Nomination to be the Next Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at Treasury Department

Senator Manchin delivers remarks on the Senate floor

Washington, D.C. – As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin today delivered remarks on the Senate floor explaining his opposition of Wall Street investment banker Antonio Weiss to be the next Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Department of Treasury.

Please read Senator Manchin’s remarks as prepared for delivery below:

M. President –

I represent and serve the great state of West Virginia, a rural state where we believe in common sense solutions and values. In the Mountain State, we understand the importance of leveling the playing field for community institutions and helping small businesses create and keep jobs.  As the Senator from West Virginia, I was sent here to represent the people of Main Street.

For those reasons, I rise today to explain why I must oppose the nomination of Wall Street investment banker, Antonio Weiss, for Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Department of Treasury.

I cannot and will not support his nomination because I do not believe he possesses the characteristics and the background we need in an Under Secretary to push for strong Wall Street oversight and to protect our small businesses and financial institutions on Main Streets across America. 

The position to which Mr. Weiss has been nominated is one that would put him at the head of the Treasury’s decision-making on issues of domestic finance, fiscal policy, government liabilities, and other related domestic matters.  He would oversee critical issues such as Wall Street reform, financing the national debt, housing finance reform, and small business credit.

I have serious doubts that Mr. Weiss has the right experience to take on such a role. It is clear that as Global Head of Investment Banking at Lazard, Mr. Weiss is very talented and experienced in working in financial markets and economic institutions.

But as an investment banker on Wall Street he does not have the experience for this particular oversight position.

He has dealt almost entirely with European investment banking matters, not domestic finance, community banking, or regulatory issues of any kind, all of which falls under the jurisdiction of this important position.

And besides not having the right background for the job, the fact that Mr. Weiss is a top corporate dealmaker with a specialization in international finances is in and of itself troubling.

He has spent a good deal of his professional career working on mergers and acquisitions for the world’s largest corporations and he has spent time in Paris running the firm’s European division.

This fits the Administration’s pattern of choosing Wall Street insiders to senior policy positions instead of those with strong consumer protection or community bank and credit union experience. Plainly spoken,  people that have worked on Main Street.

To make matters worse, the substantial compensation Lazard plans to offer Mr. Weiss upon his confirmation is another reason to be skeptical. The financial giant is planning to pay him $20 million if he were to win confirmation.

This kind of an arrangement and human nature suggests he will be especially sympathetic to Lazard’s lobbying efforts. Public service is a noble cause, and a $20 million golden parachute makes it very hard to gain the public trust.

With that being said, I do not believe Mr. Weiss can fulfill the duties of Undersecretary at the Treasury Department.

Since joining the Senate Banking Committee, I have tried to make our banking and financial system work better for small businesses, banks and middle class West Virginians and Americans, and I will continue to so do. That’s why I cannot support this nomination.

Mr. Weiss does not have the experience for this particular job, and it is important to send the message that we will no longer allow Wall Street to exclusively make our fiscal policy decisions, especially when they affect so many on Main Street.

Economic and banking policies have too often been made without the input of our nation’s mid-sized banks, community banks and credit unions. We must strive to have a balanced view by engaging voices on all sides of these important issues.

By confirming Weiss as the Under Secretary, we are putting Wall Street before Main Street, and we’ve already seen from the 2008 crisis how that harms the nation as a whole. 

I would urge the President to nominate instead someone with experience in strong oversight and who understand the struggles of mid-sized banks, community banks and credit unions. The Treasury Under Secretary for Domestic Finance plays a leading role in developing policies that will impact the full spectrum of the U.S. financial system.

To be effective in that role, the Under Secretary should have a broad background in financial services, with the critical inclusion of community banking, which is so important to thousands of rural communities, small towns, and suburbs.

A person with direct Main Street experience can fully appreciate the special concerns of that industry. Unfortunately, Mr. Weiss does not fit the bill, and for that reason, I must oppose his nomination.