Antonio Weiss Is Not Qualified To Be Under Secretary For Domestic Finance

By Simon Johnson

Antonio Weiss has been nominated by President Obama to become the next Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Mr. Weiss’s supporters argue that he is highly qualified for this senior fiscal policy job. They are wrong. Mr. Weiss has no known relevant qualification or experience for this position.

In the organizational structure of the Treasury Department, the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance is “primarily responsible for policy formulation and overall management” at the Office of Domestic Finance – a very important role. This Office is central to our debt management policies, but the Under Secretary also guides the administration’s fiscal policies much more broadly,

“Domestic Finance advises and assists in areas of domestic finance, banking, and other related economic matters. It develops policies and guidance for Treasury Department activities in the areas of financial institutions, federal debt finance, financial regulation, and capital markets.”

Here is the detailed org chart of Domestic Finance. On paper, this Under Secretary is the third most senior official in the executive branch with regard to fiscal decision-making. Given the way the Treasury Department works, along with the position of the United States in the world economy, on a day-to-day basis, this person is effectively the number two on many budget- and debt-related issues.

There is no disagreement on what Mr. Weiss has been doing for the past 20 years. Writing recently in the New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin said, Antonio Weiss is “a longtime adviser on mergers at the investment bank” [Lazard]. And “He has spent his career whispering strategic advice in the ears of corporate leaders.” (More detail on his career advising corporations is in the New York Times news coverage.)

Bloomberg reports his title as global head of investment banking at Lazard. For more details of the firm’s activities and clients see this Lazard page on their “M&A and Strategic Advisory” and their most recent results. You can also search the Lazard website for mentions of Antonio Weiss. Or look at Mr. Weiss’s job description, from Lazard’s press release on his March 2009 promotion to his current position. Without question, Mr. Weiss is experienced in advising companies how to buy other companies, particularly across international borders.

Mr. Sorkin thinks Mr. Weiss is the right pick because, “the job requires deep experience in the capital markets and global relationships.”

But Mr. Weiss’s “high profile M&A activities” are completely unrelated to the central task of this position: running responsible federal government finances. The Under Secretary for Domestic Finance does not typically buy and sell companies – or engage in any activities remotely related to advising companies on acquisitions. The treasury job requires knowledge of sovereign credit, experience with the practicalities of public debt sustainability, and an understanding of the intricacies of our national budget. From the public record and otherwise available information, Mr. Weiss has no substantial knowledge or expertise on any of these issues.

Mr. Weiss was one of 12 people who signed a paper on fiscal issues published by the Center for American Progress in 2012 (co-authored with Robert Rubin, among others). However, Mr. Weiss’s role in formulating ideas or writing that paper remains unclear. This is the only paper Mr. Weiss has written with CAP or, as far as can be determined, elsewhere on this topic (or on anything else to do with economics or public finance.) There are also no other publicly available speeches, op eds, or other writing by him on issues that might touch on the substantive duties of the Under Secretary position.

Mr. Sorkin suggests that failing to immediately confirm Mr. Weiss could have serious negative implications for our national cash flow.   Citing Ben White of Politico (who got this from an anonymous “Wall Street exec”), Mr. Sorkin says,

“if the interest on the securities the Treasury sells was just 20 basis points higher for a year because of uncertainty or mismanagement, it would cost taxpayers $32 billion — more than it would cost to fund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for 50 years.”

To suggest that the interest rate paid by the U.S. Treasury would in the short term increase due to any part of the nomination process for this specific candidate is absurd. Mr. Sorkin fails to provide any evidence or logic to support his assertion that Mr. Weiss’s confirmation (or not) would affect the full faith and credit of the U.S. government – and how that is perceived by the market.

The Washington Post editorial page then weighed in last week along the same lines as Mr. Sorkin:

“The 48-year-old Mr. Weiss would bring much in the way of relevant experience to the job, having graduated from Harvard Business School and gone on to a successful career in finance, most recently as head of investment banking for the venerable Lazard firm.”

Again, Mr. Weiss simply has no relevant experience. Working in corporate M&A is profoundly different from managing public (government) finance.

Bill Cohan, who used to work at Lazard, adds further detail in another New York Times column that is strongly supportive of Mr. Weiss, “In addition to being a much-respected global M.&A. adviser, he [Antonio Weiss] has supervised bankers who worked for Detroit pensioners, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Airlines pilots.” Important work, no doubt, but again not something that could fairly be regarded as qualifying someone to become Under Secretary for Domestic Finance.

And, importantly, the New York Times felt the need to add a significant correction at the foot of Mr. Cohan’s column:

“An earlier version of this column described imprecisely part of the work history of Antonio Weiss, based on a document prepared by the Treasury Department. While he supervised bankers who advised Detroit pensioners, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Airlines pilots, he did not advise them directly himself.”

This suggests that the Treasury Department has been stretching its facts regarding Mr. Weiss’s experience in an inappropriate manner – to make him look more qualified for the job than he really is. (My understanding is that the work in question was actually done by Ron Bloom.)

Announcements about further scrutiny or appropriate pushback regarding the qualifications of Mr. Weiss have not and will not move the market for U.S. Treasury debt.

Interest rates are influenced by many factors including – in the first instance these days – by Federal Reserve policies, but also by the balance of global savings and investment, as well as inflation expectations and views on how quickly the US economy (and, to some extent, the global economy) will make a full recovery. Threats of a government shutdown or a confrontation over the debt ceiling might also play a role – at least, that has been the experience in recent years.

In coming years, the overall stance of US fiscal policy will matter a great deal for long-term interest rates, with one key issue being whether domestic and international investors remain convinced that our debt-GDP ratio is on a sustainable path. (James Kwak and I wrote a book on this topic.)

Based on the record, there is no indication that Mr. Weiss has the skills likely to help put us on such a path (yes, fiscal policy is determined by Congress as much as by any administration – but the Under Secretary is an important part of the decision-making mix).

And there is a legitimate concern about Mr. Weiss’s qualifications which, ironically and perhaps inadvertently, was raised by Mr. Sorkin himself, when he conceded, “that Mr. Weiss doesn’t have a lot of experience in the regulatory arena, and at least part of the role he is nominated for involves carrying out the remaining parts of the Dodd-Frank overhaul law.”

The negative fiscal implications in that statement are potentially first-order. Ineffective financial regulation increases the probability of a serious crisis. And such crises have major negative effects on the public balance sheet – the near-collapse of the financial system in 2007-08 caused a recession that will end up increasing our debt-to-GDP ratio by about 50 percentage points (this is based on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis.)

Having the experience, commitment, and world view necessary to ensure this never happens again should be essential background for whoever might become the next Under Secretary. Regrettably, this critical responsibility is too often an afterthought – when it should be a priority. Given the cost of the crash and the lasting economic wreckage of the Great Recession, this is indefensible.

It’s hard to think of any senior fiscal official from a serious country with qualifications as weak as those of Mr. Weiss.

Mr. Weiss might be qualified for other positions, for example in the Commerce Department. Based on the available facts, he is simply not qualified for the post of Under Secretary for Domestic Finance in the Treasury Department.

25 responses to “Antonio Weiss Is Not Qualified To Be Under Secretary For Domestic Finance

  1. I do not have sufficient knowledge about what the post as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the U.S. Department of the Treasury entails, nor do I know Mr. Antonio Weiss… and so am I not capable to issue an opinion on about qualifications for said post.

    But that said, I find Simon Johnson’s protest here to be courageous and well argued. Indeed this is precisely the kind of opinions that we lack in a world where unfortunately most find keeping mum so much more convenient.

    Again, I have little idea about the substance, but on the form, and on the intention… well done Simon Johnson.

    And the least it should produce is a “Just in case… let us think it through again”

  2. Mr. Johnson studiously avoids the more common criticism re Mr. Weiss’ heavy inversion experience. Also, it wld. be interesting to know why the Obama Admin really chose Weiss over a more experienced person with consumer protections and our new/complex banking regs. Surely O wants a tough/skilled partner on these, right?

  3. I don’t consider you to be that shallow a person Per, deceitful, yes. (Oh what a web we weave, when we FIRST practice to deceive). Mr Weiss is a pawn for the guess who? The oligarch’s per, your people. This is a prime example of how our politics have become a game of qualitative easing. Done so slowly it can barely be seen, yet each passing day brings slightly better, or slightly worse, candidates, but overall worse in general. He for one, is not a linear thinker but his supporters are. He has a very poor track record too, one that includes lying in public on multiple occasions, so much so that he is now comfortable with it after have been surrounded by it most of his career. Anyhow, I believe our problems stem more from policy decisions, than from qualitative easing, should he be appointed, the media will have a field day chopping up his remains, huh Moses?

  4. I have no idea why I am suddenly considered “deceitful”.

    And I do not understand how someone like me who foremost defends the fair access to bank credit of “the risky”, most often those who do not have much, is suddenly bunched up with “The oligarch’s per, your people.”

    That said I must agree that the term “qualitative easing”, used in this context and not in a central bank monetary policy context, is a term that explains well much of what is going wrong in the world.

  5. Too Connected to Jail

    “Robert King “Bob” Steel (born August 3, 1951) is an American businessman, financier and government official who has served as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development in the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Under Secretary for Domestic Finance of the United States Treasury, chief executive officer of Wachovia Corporation and vice chairman of Goldman Sachs.”

  6. Obama’s insouciance towards economic realities has only been matched by Palin, who breezily quit being Governor…

    All that printing of FIAT $$$$ and now it is time to go “buy up” or “blow up” assets around the world…


    Thanks for posting the org chart for the Treasury – there it is in black and white – a FOREIGN “government” has its own “department” at Treasury – “Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence” – AKA “how to keep sucking it out of taxpayers to send plane loads of unmarked FIAT paper $$$$ to the Middle East to “fight” terrrrrrorrrism…

  8. No snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche.

  9. never mind the bullocks

    Simon continues his great work. As usual, his commentary is carefully thought out, analytical and fully sourced. As he says, Antonio Weiss is one more entry into the Wall Street-White House revolving door. He is patently incompetent for the job of undersecretary. Simon took the high ground and steered away from talking about Weiss’s donations to the Obama campaign (mentioned in the NY Times articles), something one would imagine was a key, but substantively irrelevant, consideration in his selection. If you want the cockroaches to scatter, turn on the lights. Thanks again to Simon for flipping the switch.

  10. A thousand thanks Mr. Johnson for this important information. You again shine hot lights on issues, characters, policies, and individuals, that us downtrodden would never see. What can we do about it? The people have no voice in the conduct of our government, and while we can write or call our respective congress persons, and express our dismay, or concerns and ask the Whitehouse through letters, or phonecalls to reconsider this “revolving door” predatorclass insider appointment, – none of us have any access, or voice, or any means or avenue to affect this decision. The single comfort gained from your reportage, (and it is important and appreciated), is further proof, of yet another, in a long and festering list of decisions by this government to shield, protect, insulate, and advance the predatorclass, and predatorclass interests, and undermining the peoples best interests.

    Truly appreciate the information, – but what do we do?

  11. We wait Tony, we wait for a God they (and perhaps you) don’t believe in, to level the playing field.

  12. True that Anonymouse. We need a deus ex machina kind of involvement to right these horrible wrongs. Read that Sen. Elizabeth Warren echoed Mr Johnson’s criticism of Weiss on Sunday regarding the “revolving door” policies and miserable “inequality” issues related to this appointment. Sadly, the people are still left without recourse. Perhaps Mrs Warren can muster some kind of fuss in the senate, but the rest of the panderers, apologists, and spaniels of the den of vipers and thieves on wallstreet, on both sides will certainly smother and kill any disruption to the appointment. Worship the Goddess personally, and man’s ruthless destruction of the earth, and earth systems will one day, impact all of us. “It’s not nice to fool with mother nature.” We all get what we deserve.

  13. I doubt Mrs Warren would have much of an effect on her fellow senate members, having the addition problem of poor body mechanics to use as influence against some of these same folks. Recall that for every action, there is an equal and OPPOSITE reaction, so in her case, time and mechanics (gravity) both have proven to win out over Mrs Warren type. I personally don’t get too involved with politics, knowing these problems will fix themselves and then I can step in. Right now I think you’ll get swept up in the mess rather than being able to avoid the wreckage that awaits us all.

  14. Pls. Nominate 3 others who could serve in this position better. Could a strong academic voice, someone with some street experience, be effective?


    It has been a PRE-EMPTIVE war for far too long.

    Foresta continues his schtick, “….The people have no voice in the conduct of our government, and while we can write or call our respective congress persons, and express our dismay, or concerns and ask the Whitehouse through letters, or phonecalls to reconsider this “revolving door” predatorclass insider appointment, – none of us have any access, or voice, or any means or avenue to affect this decision….”

    true dat, dude…”choose your battles”, right?

    Since “we the people” have no voice or access, then it is a JUST WAR to keep “all options on the table” when it comes to ripping their “disruptive technology” anal probes out of our LIVES…so it’s okay to chokehold a person but not a techno feed to FOREIGN blood suckers at the NSA and other “intelligence” agents…

    Let’s be honest, Jamie Dimon selling individual cigarettes to suffering homeless nicotine addicts in NYC would be broadcast 24/7 and even the Pope would chime in about possible sainthood down the road for the elite’s philanthropy…

    Every human being has the RIGHT to make their lives less miserable through honest work – when 486 people have 2.08 TRILLION fiat $$$$s, that is not an “economy” That is massive CRIMINALITY.

    They have NO RIGHT to be in your life. They have no right to classify you as a feminist, as an anti-semite, as a conservative or liberal or a homophobe or racist or whatever other majik morphing WORD they invent to crucify you….

    pull out their fetishistiic virtual probe and choke hold them with it….it continues to be a HEIST

  16. Bruce E. Woych
    Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 03:00 PM PST
    Sen. Elizabeth Warren ‘leads the charge’ to block another Wall Street nominee
    by HunterFollow for Daily Kos
    “…It would be much like staffing the Environmental Protection Agency principally with prominent oil tycoons because they know the ins and outs of polluting things.”

  17. A good and informative article and wonderfully clear series of comments. I love “qualitative easing” and appreciate the civility among folks who likely often sternly disagree.


    psychologists! ROTFL

    PSYCHO babblists

    And the beat goes on – the addition of high paying jobs ala Wall Street “valuations”…they FORECLOSED on Middle Class USA to pay these guys the 81 million – first get everyone on the anti-semite list, then the feminist list, then the “liberal” list, then on the friends and family hate-her list, no end to reasons concocted for the moral reasons to STEAL fruit to pay the patriots making the world safer through terrorism – heck, say it was a pain control clinical trial funded and conducted by Afghan Poppy cartel…

    For those in the “don’t air the dirty laundry in public” – I answer – “…r u kiddin’ me….?

    There isn’t an “action” movie, TV show, best seller fiction, music video or selfies from the global FAUX culture enforced by fascist propagandists

    that does NOT include a gratuitous nod to sadism (“torture”) – a scene, a character development, a cause…our techno media is SATURATED with “detailed” torture scenes – why is that? Isn’t that a concerted business/psyche ops CHOICE to continuously air dirty laundry?

    Hey, I challenge anyone to PROVE that the millions of USA citizens driven into incurable poverty by those modern high paying psycho jobs (professional torturers) – PROVE that with persistence we won’t be as successful as the USA social media revolutions – animal rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, no smoking rights….etc etc etc….

    PROVE that we don’t have the RIGHT to pin down people to a discussion about “Just War” – look at how JUSTICE has completely disappeared with the TRILLIONS flowing to the Middle East for a perpetual UNJUST WAR….

    We the People are still SAVING the WORLD by saving our real CULTURE.

    All options are on the table.

  19. And I challenge you to end the challenge.

    All kidding aside Annie, you need to dig deeper and find a solution to your sufferings. We know all these things you refer too and know them as problems, (the solutions would disturb you too so I’ll hold off on some of those for a while). They can not be corrected in your life time, yet you choose to believe otherwise. There a solution, the deeper one(s), but keep on fighting the good fight, not knowing, it was all in vain.

  20. ah, anon and anon, you continue to misunderstand that all you SEE is your own end time.

    I understand that what terrifies you is that your future “economy” that strips HUMANITY ITSELF of privacy and freedom is what has you suffering – all day every day…

    I am NOT suffering – psychically, emotionally, physically – by choosing this battle. It’s invigorating.

    I know what the final solution is, it was always leading to the high noon shoot out – from the time Cain killed Abel….

  21. Final WORD and it does have to do with who is qualified to do what :-)

    1. The “End Times” stuff written millenia ago was a CAUTIONARY tale, not an invention of man – legalism – being presented as JUSTICE ala the Creator – meaning, if you do “x”, “y” will follow….you create your own END Times – FREE WILL.

    2. Never will the judgements of a person’s “soul” – eternal justice – be something that any human will be qualified to do. Whatever is written – “you are NOT being Jesus-like” is written in sand washed away by the wave of infinity. You are not QUALIFIED to Judge. No matter how many time God tells man this FACT< it does not sink in.

    3. Because of 1 and 2, the USA is STILL the only "government" on earth that DOES NOT CARE what the self-appointed shamans of sadism have to say about governing "policy". No psycho will ever get 81 million again (by throwing women out of their homes) to "teach" humanity "learned helplessness".


    Am i clear?

  22. You are clearly insane, that is once again a very elementary perception of life and where it comes from, and you will not understand the more sophisticated ones. And once the laws of nature are presented to you, you will go full retard into denial stage (we’ve tested your type and know the results). But by then it will be too late for denial or discussions, and you shall be swept up in the wrath of Gods anger,(mostly towards others because innocents such as you can’t commit the damage these more evil ones can, but you can still be swept away in the wreckage, if you can move at all) am I clear??

  23. You are the religious retard here, anon and anon.

    What part of “you are not qualified to judge” do you not get?

    “Tested” my “type”??!!

    Your gene pool produces Adam Lanzas – over and over again – so sophisticated in their understanding of life that they go kill 5 year olds in their lily-white Connecticut town…

    You OOOZE hatred for yourself, God and everyone who CLEARLY has retained their dignity and SOUL while doing HONEST WORK in this world…

    I am enjoying watching your TERROR grow, Shamanon – you are walking on the mines you’ve laid and your luck is running out for not getting blown up by one of your algorithms….

    MY WAGES WERE STOLEN AND USED TO ROB ME AND TO SET UP A SPYING NETWORK TO “TEST MY TYPE”. I am furious at YOUR insanity being “legal” and “patriotic”. FURIOUS. How unjust! How MERCILESS! How sadistic! How ethically RETARDED!

    fck u and the horse you rode in on….JUST WAR.

    And CLAW BACK….

    You have yet to see “power” over savagery – it will be over in an instant, even in a nanosecond you religious LOONS….

  24. Fight the good fight Annie.