The Finance 202: Biden’s transition team juggles competing demands as liberals push Warren for Treasury

Laveta Brigham

“Donors, activists and leaders on the left want Warren” in the role, more than six of them told NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald. “And people Warren has spoken to are under the impression that she wants the job if she is offered it.” Other activists tell me they are at least as […]

“Donors, activists and leaders on the left want Warren” in the role, more than six of them told NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald. “And people Warren has spoken to are under the impression that she wants the job if she is offered it.”

Other activists tell me they are at least as focused on Treasury candidates they would like to nix from consideration. Among them: Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), a former venture capitalist with deep ties to Wall Street. Biden’s transition team has informed Democratic officials that she is in the running, the American Prospect’s David Dayen reports.

In a sign of how involved the parlor game over a Biden Treasury pick has become, the Raimondo report set off speculation, first cited in the piece itself, that Biden officials are only floating her to make the team’s preferred choice of Lael Brainard, a member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, more acceptable to the left.

Brainard, the lone Democratic member of the Fed board, is drawing liberal criticism for advocating, among other things, freer trade as an Obama treasury undersecretary and not more forcefully advocating for the Fed to support to local governments struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Warren would be a great candidate. But there are multiple options out there for Biden that would also be good,” the Revolving Door Project’s Jeff Hauser tells me. “I don’t think from my vantage point it’s Warren or bust.”

Among those in the mix whom Hauser and other activists say deserve serious consideration: Former Fed chair Janet L. Yellen, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic, and former Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin. In addition to Raimondo, liberals are raising objections to another reported Treasury short-lister, TIAA chief executive Roger Ferguson.

Liberals have raised the stakes over the position because they remain suspicious of Biden’s commitment to their priorities. 

Biden has moved meaningfully left over the course of the primary, including on the economic front, by renouncing his support for a 2005 bankruptcy law that at the time pit him against Warren, then a Harvard University professor. Yet he hails from a Wall Street-friendly establishment and has kept figures from that camp in his inner circle.

Liberals largely have shelved their concerns to help Biden oust President Trump. But a post-election reckoning is coming if he wins. “Treasury is a marquis position, and it could go a long way with the left if Biden were to pick Warren,” Rebecca Katz, founder of the progressive consulting firm New Deal Strategies, tells me. “Conversely, if he picks someone like Governor Raimondo, it would instantly aggravate a base that went all in for him.”

Biden also faces pressure to make good on appointing minorities throughout his administration.

The Democratic nominee has said he will assemble a government that looks like the country. Liberals are chafing at some minority contenders now working in the private sector — names that include Ferguson and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments. But Black Democrats argue that the Biden team will needlessly narrow the pool of eligible candidates if they exclude those with corporate experience.

“We’re past the point where it would be sufficient to put a Black person at HUD and a Hispanic person at SBA,” says Paul Thornell, a principal at the lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas who is helping lead the push for more diverse appointees. “Given the depth of the problems we are facing on racial inequality, he needs to have Black and Brown people at the principal level in places like NEC, CEA, Treasury, SEC, OCC, the sub-Cabinet level, and throughout the many regulatory agencies’ advisory councils.”

Thornell notes that “with the exception of his senior adviser Don Graves,” Biden’s policy team isn’t much more diverse than Obama’s. “That’s going to be Biden’s unique challenge on this. But he has pledged to do so and can absolutely get it done if he’s intentional.”

Biden has shown through his vice-presidential pick that he can satisfy both liberals and those advocating diversity.

Indeed, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the first Black woman on a major-party ticket, has also compiled among the most liberal voting records in the Senate.

But Biden and Harris share a trait that’s arguably as important as those that distinguish her, according to the team at Beacon Policy Advisors: They are both institutionalists who favor working within the system to reform it. The Beacon team writes in a Tuesday note that the Harris selection prefigures how Biden will look to stock his administration, with a priority on “placing institutionalists and picking those which shatter glass ceilings. Progressives would be present, but it would be the ‘right kind’ of progressives.”

A focus on restoring smoothly functioning government could help elide ideological differences between Biden and the party’s left wing, Hauser says.

“We need a functioning government. Believing that doesn’t require you to be on the far left,” he says. “The Biden team is aware they’re taking over broken systems of government, from the State Department to the CDC. It’s a really hard job, and it’s about competency, not just ideology.” 

Latest on the federal pandemic response

Trump says massive stimulus is coming after the election.

In the meantime, talks have failed: “Congress left Washington until after the election without passing any new economic or health care relief measures even as the pandemic surges and the economy sputters. Prospects for a stimulus deal remain in doubt and negotiations have largely been shelved after repeated failed attempts to broker a compromise,” Erica Werner reports.

“Talks faltered in part because the bipartisan urgency that the White House and Congress shared earlier this year evaporated over the summer as the November elections neared. Instead, the White House and Democratic leaders dug in during talks and never closed in on an agreement … Their talks showed scant evidence of progress, but neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seems to want to be the one to say it’s over.”

Market movers

Dow falls as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Futures are sliding as anxiety over new infections rises. “Futures tied to the S&P 500 dropped 1.4%, suggesting the broad index will retreat for its third consecutive session. The benchmark has slipped more than 5% from its record closing level in early September,” the Wall Street Journal’s Will Horner reports. 

  • The Dow fell more than 200 points on Tuesday: “The 30-stock Dow slid 222.19 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 27,463.19. Caterpillar and Boeing were the biggest laggards in the Dow, falling 3.2 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively,” CNBCs Fred Imbert and Maggie Fitzgerald report. “The S&P 500 pulled back by 0.3 percent to end the day at 3,390.68, marking its first close below 3,400 since Oct. 6. The Nasdaq Composite bucked the negative trend, rising 0.6 percent to 11,431.35 as tech shares gained broadly.”
  • Some “stay-at-home stocks” are rallying: “Online retailers Shopify and Amazon rose 4.3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Zoom Video gained 4.1 percent. Microsoft advanced 1.5 percent. Meanwhile, American Airlines dropped 4.8 percent while United and Delta both slid more than 3 percent.”

Airbnb prepares for a blockbuster Nasdaq debut: “Earlier this month, Reuters reported the company was aiming to raise $3 billion in its IPO, which could give it a valuation of more than $30 billion, and that it was targeting a listing before the end of the year,” Reuters staff report.

“The push to go public and the growth in its potential valuation underscores Airbnb’s dramatic recovery from earlier this year, when it secured emergency funding from investors and the outlook for the travel industry was uncertain.” 

Coronavirus fallout

From the U.S.:

  • Infections hit record levels, with hospitalizations and deaths on the rise: “For the first time, the nation’s rolling average — considered more reliable than fluctuating daily cases counts — topped 70,000, according to Washington Post data. This latest surge has spared no corner of the country: 29 states have reported record numbers of infections in the past week,” Reis Thebault reports.
  • Western states join coalition to independently review vaccine: “Four Western states that formed a pact to work together on obtaining crucial supplies and developing a plan to reopen the economy will also join forces to review an eventual covid-19 vaccine, officials announced,” Antonia Farzan reports of California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada’s actions.
  • Rental market could be the next big crisis: “Federal and local eviction moratoriums have protected many of them from losing their homes if they missed payments during the pandemic. But the national eviction ban and some state and city protections are set to expire by January or sooner. Renters then will be on the hook for months of missed payments, which even those who have jobs could struggle to pay,” the WSJ’s Will Parker reports.

More from the corporate front:

  • Another food-stockpiling wave has arrived: “Demand for items like baking goods spiked 3,400 percent from a year earlier in the three weeks through Oct. 13, according to Centricity Inc., a platform that tracks online activity like searches and e-commerce. Mike Brackett, Centricity’s chief executive officer, said … he expects this one to hit a wider range of products beyond canned goods and other staples,” Bloomberg Newss Nic Querolo and Leslie Patton report.
  • 3M says it is making more N95 masks than ever before: The industrial giant is now on track to produce 2 billion N95 masks this year, about half of which will be in the United States, according to Chairman and CEO Mike Roman,” CNBCs Kevin Stankiewicz reports.
  • Etsy bet on face masks is paying off: “Last quarter, 14 percent of gross merchandise sales from Etsy’s marketplace came from masks, making it the second-best selling category on the site behind housewares and home furnishings,” the Wall Street Journals Charity L. Scott reports.
  • Raytheon shrinks: “The company, which supplies engines, aircraft seats and other parts to airlines and plane makers, said the cuts include a 20 percent reduction in its commercial arm. It is also reducing its office and factory space by as much as a quarter in response to pandemic-driven changes in demand and working conditions,” the WSJs Doug Cameron reports.
  • Reddit will pay employees the same wherever they work: “For those who do come into the office, the spaces will be look different: Reddit said it’s ‘reimagining’ its office space, without fixed desks and with ‘neighborhoods’ for teams to work together,” Bloomberg News’s Breanna T. Bradham and Priya Anand report.

Trump tracker

Millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to Trump’s properties.

The president’s personal businesses continue to benefit from his power: “Since his first month in office, Trump has used his power to direct millions from U.S. taxpayers — and from his political supporters — into his own businesses. The Post has sought to compile examples of this spending through open records requests and a lawsuit,” David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy report.

“In all, he has received at least $8.1 million from these two sources since he took office, those documents and publicly available records show. The president brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself. He’s visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times now, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency.”

Trump maneuvered his way out of debt: “For Trump and his company, the Chicago experience also turned out to be something else: the latest example of his ability to strong-arm major financial institutions and exploit the tax code to cushion the blow of his repeated business failures,” the New York Times’s David Enrich, Russ Buettner, Mike McIntire and Susanne Craig report of the president opening a skyscraper in the Windy City during the financial crisis. 

Big banks and hedge funds gave him years of extra time to repay his debts. Even after Trump sued his largest lender, accusing it of preying on him, the bank agreed to lend him another $99 million — more than twice as much as was previously known — so that he could pay back what he still owed the bank on the defaulted Chicago loan, records show.”

The regulators

Hedge fund secrecy rule gets shelved.

Public companies and other critics blasted the SEC’s proposal: “Under the rule change the Securities and Exchange Commission was considering, only fund managers who owned at least $3.5 billion in equities would have had to publicly report their holdings, a dramatic increase from the current threshold of $100 million,” Bloomberg News’s Benjamin Bain and Robert Schmidt report.

“While the SEC hasn’t publicly announced its decision to scrap the overhaul, some within the agency have been notified it’s dead …”

Money on the Hill

Three social media giant CEOs face tough questioning from Senate Republicans. 

The chiefs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter will testify remotely today before the Senate Commerce Committee. Republicans on the panel have made unfounded allegations the platforms display anti-conservative bias. “Beyond questioning the CEOs, senators are expected to examine proposals to revise long-held legal protections for online speech, an immunity that critics in both parties say enables the companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content,” per AP’s Marcy Gordon. 

Campaign 2020

Post-ABC poll: Biden holds wide lead in Wisconsin, more narrow edge in Michigan. 

Strong support among women is powering the Democrat’s lead in the Midwestern battlegrounds. “The surveys show Biden narrowly ahead of Trump among likely voters in Michigan by 51 percent to 44 percent, with Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen at 3 percent,” the Post’s Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report. “In Wisconsin, likely voters favor Biden by 57 percent to 40 percent, with Jorgensen at 2 percent. Among registered voters, Biden’s edge in Michigan is five points, while he leads by 17 points in Wisconsin.”

  • Heartland job growth lagged under Trump. The Rust Belt boom never came: “While job and wage growth continued nationally under Trump, extending trends that took root under [Obama], the country’s economic weight also continued shifting south and west, according to data from the U.S. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages that was recently updated to include the first three months of 2020,” Reuters’s Howard Schneider reports.

Montana Senate race could be affected by a Chinese company’s failure to buy beef: “The deal seemed like great news for Montana ranchers: Chinese retailer had promised to buy $200 million worth of beef and spend an additional $100 million building a slaughterhouse in the state. But nearly three years after the accord was announced on the sidelines of Trump’s first official trip to Beijing, the big orders have yet to materialize and there’s no sign of any new meatpacking plant,” David J. Lynch reports.

“In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock, the Democratic challenger, has criticized Republican Sen. Steve Daines, who claimed credit for brokering the beef deal, for being too cozy with the Chinese government. The state Democratic Party has run ads calling Daines ‘China’s cheerleader’ and accused him of helping outsource jobs as a business executive in the 1990s, a charge he denied in earlier campaigns.”

Pocket change

Dunkin’ sale poised to be second-largest restaurant deal ever.

Inspire Brands is building a massive portfolio: “The megadeal would dramatically expand Inspire, which was formed through the 2018 merger of Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. It has since acquired brands including Sonic Corp. and Jimmy John’s, giving it more domestic restaurant locations than industry stalwarts such as Wendy’s Co,” Rick Clough and Crystal Tse report.

Sheldon Adelson is eyeing a sale of his Las Vegas casinos: “The company operates the Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, plus the Sands Expo Convention Center. A deal to sell all three could rake in as much as $6 billion, leaving the company to focus on its glitzy properties in Singapore and Macao,” CNN Business’s Jordan Valinsky reports.

“Sands’ U.S. properties accounted for just over 13 percent of its revenue last year. The company confirmed to several outlets that it’s in ‘very early discussions’ about a possible sale.”

Visa’s planned fintech purchase faces DOJ scrutiny: “The Justice Department could decide soon whether it will sue to block Visa’s acquisition of Plaid Inc., a firm that provides the technological infrastructure underpinning an array of next-generation financial apps,” the WSJ’s AnnaMaria Andriotis, Brent Kendall and Peter Rudegeair report.

“After spending the better part of the year scrutinizing the deal, the department is concerned it could limit nascent competition in the payments sector. … The Justice Department has been making preparations for potential litigation, including lining up potential witnesses for a trial. … No final decision has been made.” 

Chart topper

Once again, the stock market is not the economy: “That point was underscored recently with the release of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, a snapshot of household financial health that is updated every three years. In 2019, it showed, 47.4 percent of U.S. families owned no stock whatsoever. That includes indirect ownership through retirement accounts like 401(k) plans,” Christopher Ingraham reports.

“For nearly half of all Americans, in other words, the stock market’s movements have no direct impact on their personal financial health.”


  • Boeing, Ford, United Parcel Service, General Electric, Deutsche Bank, eBay, GlaxoSmithKline, Grubhub, Visa, Six Flags Entertainment and Rent-A-Center are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger.
  • Apple, Alphabet, Starbucks, U.S. Steel, Yum Brands, Comcast, Facebook, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin’ Brands, Kraft Heinz, Kellogg and Keurig Dr Pepper are among the notable companies reporting their earnings.

The funnies

Bull session

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