Lew nomination for Treasury sec likely

Trusted hand in White House and management guru could be relatively easy to confirm

The Next Treasury Secretary? Image courtesy: The White House staff page The Next Treasury Secretary? Image courtesy: The White House staff page

Jacob “Jack” Lew, the White House chief of staff, and former two-time director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary according to a report in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The nomination could come as early as tomorrow.

National Underwriter reported in November that the initial speculation was that Geithner would be replaced by Lew.

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Lew, 57, a Georgetown University–trained lawyer, has served both Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama in various capacities, has run a university, and has worked in the private sector as a lawyer and operations officer.

When Obama nominated Lew to serve as OMB director in July 2010, he said at the time that Lew’s experience and good judgment would be an asset in the administration’s “efforts to cut down the deficit and put our nation back on a fiscally responsible path.”

Lew, who departed from OMB the first time in 2001, left the next administration with a $237 billion surplus. During his tenure at OMB, the U.S. budget operated at a surplus for three consecutive years, according to the White House.

Treasury and the White House did not return email inquiries and stayed mum on reports of Lew’s potential nomination. Geithner had told the present administration he would stay on through the end of the year until a new secretary was nominated or confirmed.

Lew, if chosen and confirmed, would chair the Dodd-Frank-created Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), and oversee (through intermediaries like Deputy Secretary and former insurance executive Neal Wolin) the Federal Insurance Office (FIO).

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FSOC is in the process of reviewing insurance companies as nonbank SIFIs (Systemically Important Financial Institutions).

Lew, depending on when and if he assumed the new role, would possibly take the lead on designating the possibly litigious AIG and perhaps Prudential Financial as a SIFI. MetLife might have the qualifications to be considered as a nonbank SIFI once it finally sells its bank. It is now a bank holding company. Treasury is expected to be very thorough, prudent and precise when it does issue any news on SIFIs and insurance regulatory modernization reports, although many had expected them to be issued by now.

Lew also served as deputy Secretary of State for management and resources, and chief operating officer of the State Department from January 2009 until mid-2010.

Lew was managing director and chief operating officer of Citi Alternative Investments (CAI) until January 2009 and executive vice president and chief operating officer of New York University from 2001 to 2006, where he was responsible for budget, finance, and operations.

From 1998 to 2001, he led the Clinton Administration budget team and served as a member of the National Security Council. Earlier, Lew, as deputy OMB director, was a member of the negotiating team that reached a bi-partisan agreement to balance the budget. Lew also helped design Americorps, the national service program.

From 1988 to 1993, Lew was a partner at the Washington law firm Van Ness, Feldman, specializing in issues related to power plant development.

Lew began his career in Washington in 1973 as a legislative aide. From 1979 to 1987, he was a principal domestic policy advisor to House Speaker Thomas O'Neill Jr.  

Lew has been active on boards, as well. He was on the Corporation for National and Community Service Board, co-chaired the Advisory Board for City Year New York and was on the boards of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Brookings Institution Hamilton Project and the Tobin Project.

Lew received his A.B. degree magna cum laude from Harvard.

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