WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Antonio Weiss, an investment banker who was a controversial nominee for a top post at the U.S. Treasury Department, has decided to withdraw from consideration, the White House said on Monday.
Liberal lawmakers, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, fiercely opposed Weiss’s nomination to the top Treasury domestic finance job because of his work for investment bank Lazard, which they viewed as proof of a revolving door between Wall Street and the U.S. government.
Weiss will instead become a senior adviser to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. The White House said it would begin a new search for a candidate for the domestic finance job.
“I am disappointed that Antonio will not have the opportunity to serve as under secretary, but I understand his request not to be re-nominated,” Lew said in a statement. “I continue to believe that the opposition to his nomination was not justified.”
White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said Weiss decided to withdraw to avoid the “distraction” of the confirmation process. Weiss did not respond to requests for comment.
More than 60 business leaders, including the chief executives of Morgan Stanley and BlackRock, wrote to lawmakers in Weiss’s defense after concerns about his nomination for the third-ranking position at the Treasury Department arose in Congress.
Four former under secretaries for domestic finance, including Mary Miller, who left the job in September, also said in a letter to lawmakers last month that Weiss had the skills and experience to succeed in the position.
Weiss’s decision represents a considerable victory for Warren, who has become a rising star of the Democratic Party and pushed her colleagues in a more populist direction.
In recent weeks, she also pressured her party to fight Republican-led efforts to scale back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law. She has frequently questioned whether former bankers make tough regulators.
“We’ve already seen that the new Republican Congress is going to aggressively attack the Dodd-Frank Act,” Warren said in a statement on Monday evening. “It is critical that the Treasury Department defend the act from those attacks and push for strong implementation and enforcement of the law.”
Warren and other lawmakers also criticized Weiss’s experience working for Lazard on high-profile deals that involved tax “inversions.” The Obama administration wants to prevent these deals, which involve U.S. companies moving their tax domiciles abroad to get lower rates.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alan Crosby