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The Biden-Harris team has announced its “agency review teams,” who are responsible for guiding the new administration’s transition in key departments. The list of 500 people reflects the “values and priorities of the incoming administration,” the transition team said, and is being scrutinized for hints about President-elect Joe Biden’s ideological leanings.
Well-known corporate and Wall Street figures are few. Instead, the list is packed with academics and Obama-era staffers — Georgetown University, the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution are among the top employers of review team members. Nearly 50 people are described as self-employed.
That said, these teams are formed to assess the state of federal agencies, and aren’t necessarily the same people who will ultimately be tapped to staff the departments. Being left off the list also doesn’t preclude having the team’s ear. Mr. Biden, who was vice president when progressives felt shut out of the Obama administration, is also well aware of Wall Street’s concerns, given the tense relationship between banks and his former boss during the financial crisis.
Here are some of the key names at business-focused agencies:
Commerce Department: The review team is led by Geovette Washington of the University of Pittsburgh, who previously served as general counsel and senior policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget. Other members include Anna Gomez, a partner at the law firm Wiley Rein; Arun Venkataraman,who works in government relations at Visa (and was director of policy at the Commerce Department under Mr. Obama); and Ellen Hughes-Cromwick of the think tank Third Way,who served as chief economist at Mr. Obama’s Commerce Department and held a similar role at Ford.
Treasury Department: The team is led by Don Graves, who heads corporate responsibility at KeyBank and previously worked as director of domestic and economic policy for Mr. Biden. Others include Nicole Isaac of LinkedIn and Marisa Lago, who works at the New York City Department of City Planning and previously oversaw global compliance at Citigroup.
Federal Reserve, Banking and Securities Regulators: The team is led by Gary Gensler, a top Wall Street regulator in the Obama administration who is now a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The team also includes Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, long a proponent of tougher rules for banks.
Council of Economic Advisers: The team is led by Martha Gimbel, the senior manager of economic research at Schmidt Futures, the philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt.
“Building an administration that looks like America”: The Biden-Harris team emphasized the diversity of the review teams — more than half the members are women, and 40 percent come from “communities historically underrepresented in the federal government, including people of color, people who identify as L.G.B.T.Q.+ and people with disabilities.”
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
China cracks down on tech giants, and Silicon Valley shudders. Beijing proposed new antitrust rules aimed at curbing companies’ power, and shares in giants like Alibaba and Tencent tumbled. We hear that executives from American tech giants are worried that the Chinese moves may embolden similar efforts in Washington (with support from smaller tech players). Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has argued that China’s growing tech groups are a competitive threat, but more aggressive antitrust action by Beijing weakens that claim.
Obamacare may survive Supreme Court scrutiny. At least five justices, including two conservatives, indicated yesterday that they would support leaving most of the Affordable Care Act intact by severing the individual mandate. A ruling is expected by June.
Californians reject a proposal to lift commercial property taxes. Proposition 15, which would have eliminated a 40-year cap on some real estate taxes to raise billions for education, was defeated, 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent. Backers included Mark Zuckerberg’s family foundation; opponents included Blackstone.
Bill Ackman makes a new bet on corporate defaults. The billionaire hedge fund manager told a Financial Times conference that the new trade was 30 percent of the size of a similar move in February that netted $2.6 billion when markets crashed early in the pandemic. “I hope we lose money on this next hedge,” he said.
An Apollo co-founder expects some investors to “hold back.” Josh Harris, who runs the investment giant on a day-to-day basis, said at a conference that he expected some of the private equity firm’s limited partners to pause investing during an internal review into the relationship between the co-founder Leon Black and the financier Jeffrey Epstein.
All the president’s options
The Trump campaign continues litigating election challenges while the president, administration officials and much of the Republican Party refuse to concede, creating practical and symbolic obstacles to transition. “There’s a danger that it will add up,” and Americans could “lose the thread” of the election because of the delay tactics, Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told DealBook.
All eyes are on the General Services Administration. Without the official green light, the transition team can’t secure funds, offices, security clearances or access to officials. CREW yesterday urged Congress to hold a public hearing on the G.S.A.’s delay. Mr. Biden says he’s proceeding as if President Trump had conceded the election, but his transition team says that “everything is on the table” in terms of forcing the issue.
Companies are watching closely, lobbyists say, anticipating a moment when Mr. Trump’s efforts to contest the election may become a headache for them, too. Airbnb delayed filing its I.P.O. prospectus until next week, Bloomberg reported, to put more distance between it and the election fallout.
Mr. Trump may have his own business prospects in mind, with legal woes casting a shadow over his life after leaving office. He could use the presidency to avoid later legal entanglements, and his liberal pardoning of associates has generated speculation about what he may do for himself on the way out. DealBook went through the hypotheticals with experts.
Pardon power is “pretty broad,” said Tara Leigh Grove, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Alabama. But that power extends only to federal offenses and past acts, and probably does not include absolving oneself. Jens David Ohlin of Cornell Law said such an act would be a “shocking” and strange twist on the concept of “sovereign grace” that spawned the pardon. Alternatively, the president could resign before his term ends, and his successor could pardon him pre-emptively for any attempted federal prosecutions of past acts. That would be legal if unseemly, scholars agree. The attorney general could also write protective memos making future investigations harder.
Legal action looms, even if Mr. Trump ends up partially shielded, as this non-exhaustive list shows:
The Manhattan D.A. is investigating possible bank, insurance and tax fraud, as well as false business records claims
The New York A.G. is looking into the Trump Organization
Two women accusing Mr. Trump of sexual assault are suing for defamation
The A.G. in Washington accuses Trump entities of misusing inaugural committee funds
The I.R.S. is auditing Mr. Trump’s taxes
“In order to assess what wealth should be redistributed, we must first identify where the older generation has made gains through mere luck of timing and forces outside their control.”
— Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid and Luke Templeman in a new report: “To save capitalism we must help the young”
TikTok wants to put more time on the clock
The Trump administration may be in its final days, but its efforts to ban TikTok in the U.S. haven’t been resolved. The Chinese-owned social network has gone to court to stay those efforts before a Thursday deadline.
TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, filed a new challenge to the ban, questioning the U.S. government’s legal authority over the social network. It also sought a 30-day extension to the administration’s Aug. 14 order requiring the sale of the social network to an American buyer, as ByteDance continues work to finalize its deal to bring on Oracle and Walmart as investors. (The filing also disputes Mr. Trump’s claim that the Oracle deal would include a $5 billion education fund.)
Biding time for Joe Biden? TikTok’s ultimate goal may be to push the process into next year, whatever the short-term penalties, in hopes that a Biden administration would be easier to negotiate with.
THE SPEED READ
Britain plans to announce new disclosure requirements for foreign companies seeking to take over domestic firms that own politically sensitive assets. (FT)
Spotify agreed to buy Megaphone, a podcast ad tech company, for $235 million. (Reuters)
Politics and policy
A profile of Lael Brainard, the Fed governor who is a top candidate to be President-elect Biden’s Treasury secretary. (NYT)
What went wrong with election polls? The Upshot’s Nate Cohn has some theories. (NYT)
Analysts estimate that China’s new regulations for fintech companies could slash as much as $150 billion from Ant Group’s valuation. (CNBC)
Apple unveiled a new line of Mac computers that use its own processors, the first step in severing a 15-year partnership with Intel. (NYT)
Lyft’s latest quarterly earnings show that its core ride-hailing business is recovering, slowly. (WSJ)
Best of the rest
Steve Cohen, who bought the New York Mets for nearly $2.5 billion, is “not in this to be mediocre.” (NYT)
How Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is moving on from the Trump era. (NYT)
Whole Foods is offering turkey “insurance” for Thanksgiving culinary mishaps. (Business Insider)
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