Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew skated through his confirmation hearing, and will most likely be confirmed this week. It’s a shame nobody bothered to ask him about why he received a huge bonus from Citi to leave the company and go work for the government. That’s not all, according to The Wall Street Journal, he also received a severance package from New York University for quitting his job. What’s up with that? Who gets paid to quit their jobs? I guess only people moving on to influential positions in Washington, DC.
We wrote recently about the oddity of New York University paying severance to Mr. Lew in 2006 when he left there voluntarily to work at Citigroup. NYU hasn’t explained why it would pay someone for quitting to take a job on Wall Street.
As for the Citi paycheck, the story is how Wall Street has become a get-rich-turnstile for Democratic political operatives. The terms of Mr. Lew’s original employment contract with Citi included a bonus guarantee if he left the bank for a “high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”
Most companies include incentives for top employees not to leave, but in this case the contract was written to reward Mr. Lew for treating the bank like a revolving door. Citi says it likes to accommodate employees who do public service or work at nonprofits. But the Lew contract was specific about a senior job in the federal government. There would be no special payout if he left to run the Red Cross or the New York state budget office.
Citi has been an especially nice landing spot for big-shot Democrats. Former White House budget director Peter Orszag is now a Citigroup vice chairman and somehow finds time to write a column for Bloomberg News. And there was former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who was paid more than $115 million while encouraging the risk-taking that would have destroyed Citi if not for a taxpayer rescue.
Mr. Rubin was Mr. Lew’s patron at the bank. Mr. Lew’s contract suggests that Citi knew from the start that Mr. Lew was headed back to a powerful job in Washington, and that it wanted him to remember the bank fondly when he left. We have nothing against people making a living, but when they show up a few years later to do more “public service,” taxpayers have a right to know what their private employers were paying them to do. (Read More)
I’m sure Lew will remember the bonus when he’s regulating the bank under the new rules imposed by Dodd Frank. Lovely.