Clinton Hires Former Wall Street Regulator As Campaign’s CFO

Gary Gensler is shown. | AP Photo

Hillary Clinton recently recruited Gary Gensler, a former top federal Wall Street regulator, as her campaign’s chief financial officer, and it was meant to show donors she is serious about avoiding the overspending that plagued her 2008 presidential campaign, according to The New York Times.  Financial managers usually play a role in political campaigns, states the Times.

It was also supposedly an indication that Mrs. Clinton is prepared to take a tougher stance toward the financial industry.

Mr. Gensler, 57, was an under secretary in the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration, whose early deregulation of the financial industry, some economists say, contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

Mr. Gensler also spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs, becoming a partner at 30 and rising to its co-head of finance. His recruitment tightens Mrs. Clinton’s ties to the firm, which frequently works with the Clinton Foundation in philanthropic efforts and has lent its Lower Manhattan auditorium to the Clintons for briefings with foundation donors.

So, is he a Wall Street insider or a Wall Street regulator?

The New York Times:

“Mr. Gensler, as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2009 to 2014, overhauled the commission from one of Wall Street’s most lax regulators to one of its most aggressive, and campaigned to rein in risk-taking in response to the financial crisis.”

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2013:  “If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Massad would fill the role vacated by Gary Gensler, who has spent more than four years pushing back against Wall Street in a bid to bring more transparency and stricter rules to the multi-billion-dollar derivatives market.”

Politico:

“The CFTC has been at the center of several contentious battles involving the implementation of Dodd-Frank, with reform advocates cheering on Gensler’s efforts to write tough new rules while Wall Street bankers and other business executives warn that the agency is being overzealous. Massad will likely face twin pressures as his nomination moves through the Senate. Liberal lawmakers will press him to commit to carrying forward the approach laid out by Gensler and Republicans and some moderate Democrats will look for him to be more accommodating to the concerns of industries such as agriculture and other end-users that use derivatives to hedge risk.”

Gensler’s hiring was was first reported Thursday by Bloomberg.

After losing the Democratic nomination to Senator Barack Obama, she had to raise money to pay down her debt — including $11.4 million she had lent her campaign herself and $9.5 million owed to vendors. She also had to liquidate more than $23 million in contributions her campaign had set aside for the general election.

Mr. Gensler is also someone whose email practices – as the head of a federal agency – were the subject of sharp criticism, states the New York Times.

The Times notes that Mrs. Clinton angered some of her wealthiest donors in 2008 by pushing for increased regulation of Wall Street and its most complex financial products.

However, In January, Clinton reiterated her support for the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law, writing on Twitter, “Attacking financial reform is risky and wrong.” Mr. Gensler helped put the law together.

And this week, Mrs. Clinton hinted that she would again propose tougher rules on the financial sector. “There’s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay less in taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80,” she said Tuesday in Monticello, Iowa.

Her current campaign manager, Robby Mook, assured donors on a recent conference call that he was “a bit of a cheapskate” and would be frugal with the operation’s funds.

(Updated article)

How Important Is The Word ‘Patience’ For The Fed?

Federal Reserve officials entered a self-imposed blackout on March 10th, in which they stopped making public comments about the economy and monetary policy.  They then engaged in intensifying discussions about the statement that will come out of their policy meeting this week, states the Wall Street Journal.

This Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will release the statement from its two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, and investors are keeping a sharp lookout for whether the word “patient” still appears in the statement.  The word “patient” is a key reference to when the Fed will begin hiking interest rates, states MarketWatch.

That one detail is crucial for how stocks fare this week.

The Wall Street Journal claims that it is clear that officials intend at the March 17-18 meeting to drop the “assurance” that they’ll be “patient” before raising short-term interest rates.

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester effectively gave her support for such a move in comments Monday, March 9th, saying she wanted to have the option to raise rates in June.  To have such an option, officials need to remove the word “patience” from their statement in March, states WSJ.

The Fed has received two signals in the last couple of weeks which reinforce its confidence about removing the “patience assurance,”  claims the WSJ.

First, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen signaled in her testimony to Congress an inclination to drop the word “patience,” and the market took the comments fine.  Officials had been worried that interest rates would jump and stocks tumble when they dropped the “patience assurance,” effectively bringing forward interest rate increases before the Fed is actually ready to raise rates. When the market didn’t respond, the Fed got a signal the coast is clear.

On Friday March 6th, the Labor Department reported another drop in the unemployment rate to 5.5%, meaning the economy is closer to a state of “full employment” when more people are employed and inflation bubbles up.

So incoming economic data are supporting the Fed’s forecast for the economy, another reason to take a small step in the long march move toward rate increases later this year.

“The biggest short term question with regard to the March FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) is whether the committee chooses to include the ‘patient’ term in their policy statement or drop it,” said Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, in a recent note.

LeBas believes the Fed will leave “patient” in its statement, signalling a rate hike closer to September than June.

“In terms of impact, retaining the word would imply a first rate hike would be most probable after June and by September 2015,” he said.

For quite a while, the consensus estimate had been that the Fed would start hiking rates in June, but analysts and economists are increasingly nudging the move out to September.