Jack Lew, President Obama’s presumed choice to lead the Treasury Department, has close ties to Wall Street, receiving more than $900,000 in bonus cash from a division of Citigroup Inc. just as the company was getting bailed out by U.S. taxpayers.
The arrangement, previously reported by The Washington Times, received little scrutiny after Mr. Lew joined the Obama administration in 2009, first as a deputy in the State Department and later as Mr. Obama’s budget chief and chief of staff.
Mr. Obama has criticized hefty bonuses paid out to Wall Street executives. In his State of the Union address last year, he said, “Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money.”
Formerly chief operating officer at Citi Alternative Investments, a division of Citigroup, Mr. Lew received a bonus of $944,578 in January 2009, a payment that came days before he joined the State Department and later surfaced in a government ethics form.
The bonus came on top of $1.1 million in other Citigroup compensation he reported receiving in 2008 and the first two weeks of 2009.
Though Mr. Lew appeared twice before Senate panels considering his nominations — first to the State Department, and later as director of the Office of Management and Budget — lawmakers never mentioned the bonus.
However, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, pressed Mr. Lew for details about the bonus in a subsequent letter. “How is it in the public’s interest for you to receive a $1 million bonus on the eve of a massive $301 billion commitment to rescue Citigroup?” Mr. Grassley asked Mr. Lew in the letter.
Mr. Grassley is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which would be called upon to confirm the nominee for secretary of the Treasury.
“My position at Citi was a management position,” Mr. Lew replied. “I was not an investment adviser. My compensation was in line with other management executives at the firm and in similarly complex operations.”