Newly-released documents show that Bank of America and CitiGroup awarded millions of dollars to Wall Street executives enlisted to organize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). These Wall Street executives were hand-picked by the Obama Administration to help guide the development negotiations regarding the TPP.
The Obama Administration elected Bank of America investment banker Stefan Selig as Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce. Upon Selig’s appointment last November, Bank of America awarded a $9 million bonus to Selig, which came in addition to $5.1 million in incentive pay.
CitiGroup paid Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, $4 million, which he will receive in the form of paid installments. He left CitiGroup to work for the Obama Administration in 2009. Despite these men leaving their respective former jobs, they are essentially still on the payroll, meaning they serve the interests of the banks paying them.
CitiGroup offers an “executive contract” to company executives who leave the bank to work for the federal government. The occurrence is common among financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan, among many others that pay incentives to executives pursuing government jobs.
An investigative report by The Nation outlined the “reverse revolving door” of former corporate executives who receive cash incentives to leave their firms to work on Capitol Hill. Corporations planting their people into Congress as staffers can create influence on laws that would serve the interests of corporations. However, the circumstances under which corporations give bonuses to former employees are tough to discern because the corporations keep that information tightly under wraps.
“It strains common sense that when employers are giving employees who are about to enter government work these huge bonuses, that there isn’t a hope that there will be influence,” said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson. “I think the main gist of the payment is the same. It’s: ‘I hope when I’m pushing a piece of legislation, you’ll remember me with fondness.’”
Corporations stand to gain huge advantages with the passage of the TPP. They will be allowed to circumvent recent financial reform, challenge foreign laws they view as threatening to profits and sue foreign governments for compensation, and will be afforded near unending corporate protectionism.
Essentially, as staunch TPP opposer Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) puts it, the TPP is “a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”
So, to think that Bank of America and CitiGroup, and maybe other companies, are paying to increase the chances of the TPP’s passage isn’t a stretch. Welcome to Washington.