Sep 22, 2021 - Economy

The Treasury Department's lucrative revolving door

Illustration of a revolving with confetti around it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A lot of government agencies can propel their public-sector employees into high-paying private-sector gigs. Sitting squarely at the top of the list is the Treasury Department.

Why it matters: Treasury has almost unlimited financial power.

  • Treasury secretaries seen as being friendly to Wall Street — think Robert Rubin, Larry Summers or Tim Geithner — invariably exit to multimillion-dollar salaries in the financial sector. Steven Mnuchin has managed to do even better for himself.

Driving the news: Mnuchin has raised $2.5 billion so far for a private equity fund, including from Saudi Arabia, a country toward whom he was notably friendly while in office. If the fund is structured with a standard 2% management fee, that’s $50 million per year right there for Mnuchin and his colleagues, before they make a single penny from investment returns.

  • What we're reading: The New York Times has an in-depth story about how accountants cycle into Treasury, do a tour of duty there that often involves enforcing the law in business-friendly ways, and then cycle straight back out to their own firms "with loftier titles and higher pay."

The bottom line: As Summers himself says, "the real scandal is not the illegal things people do, rather it’s what is legal."

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