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File this in the category of you can’t make this stuff up. The U.S. Treasury Department’s next high-ranking political appointee may be Antonio Weiss, a Wall Street dealmaker who helped orchestrate major corporate inversion deals. This comes just two months after the administration announced regulatory changes to address the inversion crisis. Needless to say, the nomination is not sitting well with some Democratic lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts took to Huffington Post to tear into the Obama administration for nominating Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. Warren has many objections to Weiss, but the one that stands out is that he “helped put together three of the last four major corporate inversions that have been announced in the U.S.” One of these deals was Burger King’s pending acquisition of Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and donut chain, for the purpose of claiming that the newly merged corporation is based in Canada rather than the U.S.
Warren is not satisfied with the Administration’s response to criticism:
“The response from the White House to these concerns has been two-fold. First, they say that Mr. Weiss was not involved in the tax side of the Burger King deal. But let’s speak plainly: This was a tax deal, plain and simple. It was designed to reduce Burger King’s tax burden, and Weiss was an important and highly-paid part of the team. Second, the White House claims that Mr. Weiss is personally opposed to inversions. Really? Did he work under protest, forced to assist this deal against his will? Did he speak out against tax inversions? Did he call out his company for profiting so handsomely from its tax loophole work?”
Prompted by public outcry over multiple major corporations’ inversion deals, the administration on September 22 announced regulations intended to slow or halt inversions by making them less financially enticing. The nomination re-enforces Warren and others’ concerns that Wall Street bankers are over-represented in senior administration positions.
On Thursday, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, an outspoken advocate of legislation to stop corporate inversions, joined the chorus. Anyone in corporate America who hoped that the lame duck Congress is too distracted to be angry about inversions might be very disappointed.