Senate committee approves Lew

Feb. 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The Senate Finance Committee approved Jack Lew as the next U.S. treasury secretary.

Senate leaders had yet to schedule a vote by the Senate as a whole, Politico reported Tuesday.

The committee vote was 19-5 to approve Lew to replace outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah, the top ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, voted in favor of the nomination despite reservations.

Questions were raised during Lew's confirmation hearing concerning his work as an executive at Citigroup and an investment Lew made in an employee fund located overseas.

Lew said he divested his interest in the fund in 2010 and paid all taxes on his accounts.

He also said he did not know the location of the fund.

Lew, 57, received a $685,000 payment when he left New York University in 2006 to become chief operating officer of two Citigroup units, NYU told The New York Times reported on its website Monday night.

The payment is considered unusual by outside experts and raises questions about why a tax-exempt university would give a large exit bonus to an executive leaving voluntarily, the newspaper said.

Such payments more often go to executives of long standing who are ushered out.

University officials who acknowledged the lump-sum payment Monday defended it, telling the Times Lew addressed major university problems at the time.

The payment was not disclosed in the university's publicly available tax records.

It was scrutinized by Senate Republicans as they consider Lew's nomination, the Times said.

Lew also got about $1.5 million in mortgages from NYU -- and the university forgave $440,000 of it over time, the Times said.

The Senate is expected to vote on Lew's nomination later this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday.

During Lew's confirmation hearing Feb. 13, GOP senators questioned his lucrative tenure at Citigroup.

Lew was chief operating officer of two Citigroup investment units from 2006 to 2008 when the banking giant took a taxpayer-funded bailout to survive the financial crisis, but not directly involved in the corporation's investment or risk strategy.

Citigroup has since paid Washington back for its bailout loans, including interest on the taxpayer money.

Hatch questioned Lew during the confirmation hearing about the terms of his Citigroup contract. He specifically challenged whether the contract violated Obama's efforts to "close the revolving door," referring to the practice of government officials moving between roles as legislators or overseers and jobs at industries affected by legislation or oversight.

Under Lew's contract's terms, he kept certain bonus compensation if he left for a "high level position with the United States government or regulatory body," but would not if he went to a private-sector competitor, people with knowledge of the contract told the Times.

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