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Warren Raises Ethics Concerns With Top Treasury Lawyer Pick (1)

Sept. 22, 2021, 5:38 PMUpdated: Sept. 22, 2021, 9:05 PM

A former high-level staffer for President Joe Biden ran into some political hurdles during his confirmation hearing to serve as the Treasury Department’s top lawyer.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told Bloomberg Tax that she has “very serious problems” with the nomination of Neil MacBride to fill the role of general counsel at Treasury. MacBride, who previously served as chief counsel to then-Senator Biden, is currently a partner at DavisPolk specializing in white collar defense and civil litigation.

The evenly divided Senate means a single no vote from a Democrat at the committee level would effectively block MacBride’s nomination unless he gained some support from Republicans. The Senate has been slow to confirm Biden’s Treasury nominees: Only four Treasury officials have been confirmed so far, including Wednesday vote approving Lily Batchelder to serve as assistant secretary for tax policy

Warren, during a Wednesday Senate Finance Committee hearing, pressed MacBride for a commitment to recuse himself for four years from working on any issues involving Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Facebook, and other former clients. MacBride declined to do that, instead reiterating his commitment to Biden’s executive order on ethics in the administration, which includes a two-year recusal period.

“I am in full compliance with the Biden pledge and its enhanced recusals with respect to former clients and employers,” MacBride responded to Warren, leaving her unsatisfied.

In addition to the major corporations highlighted by Warren, MacBride’s profile at DavisPolk touts recent work on behalf of ExxonMobil and Cisco Systems.

“I have very serious problems with anyone who has been through the revolving door this many times and is not willing to make a commitment to at least slow down the spin,” Warren said after leaving the hearing.

Pressed if she would vote no on MacBride’s confirmation if the vote were held today, Warren responded, “We’re not there. I have made clear my objections.”

Warren has blocked past Treasury nominees from her own party before over past business connections. During the Obama administration, she successfully blocked former Lazard banker Antonio Weiss’s nomination to be undersecretary of domestic finance. He was later named counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and fulfilled similar responsibilities as he would have if he was confirmed.

(Updates number of confirmed Treasury nominees in third paragraph to reflect Wednesday afternoon Senate vote.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Colin Wilhelm in Washington at cwilhelm@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at pambrosio@bloombergtax.com; Kathy Larsen at klarsen@bloombergtax.com

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