Nov 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden White House eyes Wall Street hire

Image of the intersection of Wall St. and New St. with the New York Stock Exchange in the background

Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Biden administration officials are considering recruiting a seasoned business executive — potentially a Wall Street banker — to join the White House in a senior role, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: After being blindsided by inflation, the president's team wants to ensure he is getting a 360-degree view of the economy, even if that means inflaming the party’s progressive base by bringing in a figure with corporate finance and investment expertise.

  • Team Biden is preparing for a reelection campaign during a likely economic downturn. Officials want to improve their relationship with the business community.
  • Corporate profits are down, interest rates are rising, and markets are volatile. The White House wants to stay in front of any financial crises — or contagion.

Driving the news: The current National Economic Council director, Brian Deese is expected to leave his position this winter, creating a high-profile opening at the nerve center of Biden’s White House.

  • The plum position might lure someone with Wall Street experience to leave a lucrative job in New York and come to Washington. Even if Biden selects someone with more D.C. experience for the NEC slot, like former NEC director Gene Sperling, officials are looking for ways to bring someone with real business experience inside the West Wing.
  • White House senior adviser Anita Dunn told Axios that "while we are prudently planning for potential transitions post-midterm, Brian Deese is not part of those plans."
  • Deese helped negotiate the Inflation Reduction Act with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and has built good relationships on the Hill. He could still decide to stay to help implement some of Biden’s signature legislative accomplishments.

What we’re hearing: Blair Effron, a co-founder of Centerview Partners, an investment banking advisory firm, is among the potential candidates.

  • Effron, a longtime Democratic donor, is also a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board and involved with the Hamilton Project, which focuses on economic policy and is associated with the Brookings Institution,

The big picture: Democrats did better than expected in the midterm election with an 8.2% election day inflation rate, but top officials, including the president, know they need to get inflation under control.

  • While October’s consumer price index dropped to 7.7%, investors expect the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates at its next meeting in December.
  • Economists are forecasting a recession sometime next year, with elevated unemployment potentially lingering into the 2024 presidential election.
  • Biden often talks about number of jobs his administration has created and celebrates the low unemployment rate, currently at 3.7%, which is well below historical averages.

The intrigue: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who worked in private equity before serving as governor of Rhode Island, maintains close ties with Wall Street and the business community.

  • She met with investors Thursday in New York at Evercore, an investment banking firm co-founded by Roger Altman, who served as deputy Treasury Secretary under President Clinton.

The bottom line: While there was some discussion about bringing in a Wall Street executive during the transition before his inauguration, Biden ultimately decided against it. But as he retools for a 2024 run, he is reconsidering establishing a more direct line between the West Wing and the business world.

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