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Former Treasury Officials Dispute Elizabeth Warren's Contention That Lazard Banker Isn't Qualified For The Job

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren

Steve Pope/Getty Images Elizabeth Warren says the Treasury's Wall Street insiders find her threatening. Four former undersecretaries for domestic finance at the US Treasury wrote a letter yesterday detailing why they think Wall Streeter Antonio Weiss is the right man for that job.

The Obama administration has nominated Weiss, the head of investment banking at Lazard, as undersecretary for domestic finance, the number-three position at the Treasury.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is trying to block Weiss' confirmation, suggesting that he is from Wall Street and therefore won't look out for America's middle-class families. She and others have also argued that Weiss' experience has not prepared him for the role.

The former undersecretaries, who held the same job, dispute that.

"No candidate's background can be expected to align precisely with every duty of the position," wrote Mary John Miller, Jeffrey Goldstein, Robert Steel, and Randal Quarles.

Here's what Warren's press secretary told Business Insider in response:

Senator Warren has been pointedly questioning the Wall Street-centric culture that has existed at Treasury and understands that various insiders find that threatening. She’s encouraged that Antonio Weiss supporters are now acknowledging that Dodd-Frank implementation is central to the role, and she continues to believe his experience is not the right fit.

Implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law is important to the Massachussetts Democrat, who is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection.

Warren tried to prevent Congress from passing a spending bill that would loosen certain provisions in Dodd-Frank, allowing banks to once again trade potentially risky derivatives.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Warren said the new provisions “would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system."

Warren has repeatedly said that Weiss, who has a background in international mergers and acquisitions and spent much of his career overseas, does not have the qualifications to make decisions on national debt, consumer policy, and Treasury stability.

"His supporters say, 'Come on – he's a smart investment banker, so of course he is qualified to oversee all the complicated financial work done day in and day out at the Treasury.' But his defenders haven't shown that his actual experience prepares him for this job," Warren said in a speech at the Economic Policy Institute Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the White House is standing by its nominee, stating on Tuesday, "This is somebody who has very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work, and that is critically important."

Neither that statement nor the former undersecretaries' letter addresses Warren's concern with Lazard's history of overseeing unpopular mergers widely seen as tax-inversion deals.

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