Later in Mr. Obama’s second term, Mr. Zients headed the National Economic Council, where he led new regulations to crack down on payday lending and spearheaded the development of the so-called fiduciary rule – a requirement that financial professionals put the interests of their clients who have retirement accounts before their own. The Ministry of Labor rule, which the financial services and insurance industries have strongly contested, was overturned by a federal appeals court in 2018.
These efforts have won him praise from some progressive Democrats.
“Government needs talent and experience,” said Dennis Kelleher, chairman of Better Markets, which promotes Wall Street reform, and a member of Biden’s transition review team for the Fed. , banks and securities regulators. “The people who are going to try to regulate an industry as complicated as finance can’t say we’re just going to hire people who don’t know anything about finance.”
But his role as a gateway to business during the Obama administration has raised some eyebrows. Mr. Zients was one of the administration’s main liaison with executives and lobbyists when anger on Wall Street over the 2007-8 financial crisis was still at its peak. Leading lobbyists such as the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce have praised Mr. Zients as someone who has heard them.
Describing his desire to listen to business leaders, Zients told executives at a 2014 event at the Economic Club of Washington: “You are the customers, all of you as business leaders. , in terms of economic growth. “
After Mr. Obama’s departure, Mr. Zients joined private equity investor Vincent Mai’s Cranemere fund as Managing Director. The private holding company has investors from the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East and takes a long-term investment approach in the mold of Warren E. Buffett.
Mr. Zients, who is on leave from Cranemere, also spent two years on the Facebook board and was a member of the company’s audit committee. He told people he had concerns about the direction and governance of the company and chose not to run for the board again this year. Facebook has been criticized by Democrats for allowing the spread of disinformation and by Republicans who accuse it of censorship.
Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door project, said Mr. Zients’ experience in private equity and at Facebook was particularly problematic and could portend trouble for progressive causes in a Biden White House. And while he sees Mr Zients’ experience in the healthcare industry as useful in managing the pandemic response, Mr Hauser expressed concern that Mr Zients might be too accommodating to business while the vaccines launch next year.