After prodding from independent ethics officials, the Trump administration has released a list of the waiver certifications it granted to White House employees. These waivers allow personnel to participate in matters they were personally involved with as lobbyists, or to interact with colleagues at their former places of employment.
The 17 waivers granted in just the past four months demolish President Trump’s ethics pledges and his vows to drain the swamp. They enable Steve Bannon to talk to his friends at Breitbart and let Kellyanne Conway work with her former polling and consulting clients. They give former corporate lobbyists a prime perch inside the corridors of power.
But one particular pledge stands out, because the recipient appears to be engaged in direct assistance to his former client.
Andrew Olmem was a partner at the white-shoe Washington law firm Venable. Olmem, Republican chief counsel for the Senate Banking Committee during the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform, now serves as a special assistant to the president for financial policy, as part of the lobbyist-heavy team led by National Economic Council Director (and former Goldman Sachs president) Gary Cohn.
While at Venable, Olmem lobbied the government for a host of financial-industry clients, but the key one to consider is the insurance giant MetLife. His waiver enables him to participate in meetings and communications with former clients on six separate issues, among them “reforming the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (FSOC) treatment of insurers.”
FSOC, a panel of banking regulators, must determine which financial institutions, whether they are banks or not, are so big and interconnected that their failure could pose risks to the country’s economic stability. Designated firms are subsequently subject to higher capital requirements and more stringent supervision from the Federal Reserve. So far, FSOC has only designated three non-banks, all insurance companies: AIG, Prudential, and MetLife.
So Olmem, a former MetLife lobbyist, can work directly on the biggest issue affecting MetLife, getting them out from under significant regulatory scrutiny. But it’s worse than that, because we actually know the lengths to which the Trump White House has gone to assist Olmem’s former client.
MetLife is currently fighting FSOC designation in federal court. Last year, Judge Rosemary Collyer, a George W. Bush appointee, overturned the designation on three grounds: that the FSOC never assessed the likelihood of MetLife experiencing financial distress, that it failed to include specific projections of the losses that would arise as a result, and that never considered the costs of the designation on MetLife’s business.