President Barack Obama is considering two women for senior economic positions, weighing Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley, for deputy Treasury secretary and Wal-Mart Foundation President Sylvia Mathews Burwell for budget director, according to people familiar with the matter.
For the number two position at Treasury, Porat would bring deeper market experience than Jack Lew, Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, according to two people. She would also provide gender balance on an economics team dominated by men, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters that haven’t been publicly announced.
Last month, Obama named Burwell, who served as a deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget in President Bill Clinton’s administration, to his global development council. The OMB is currently headed by interim director Jeff Zients, who replaced Lew in that job last year.
A White House official, Amy Brundage, declined to comment. Jeanmarie McFadden, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman, also declined to comment. David Tovar, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The deputy Treasury secretary will be a point of contact between the administration and the financial services industry as Obama presses Congress to raise the government’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling in the coming weeks.
The U.S. reached the statutory limit on Dec. 31, and the Treasury Department began using extraordinary measures to finance the government. It will exhaust that avenue as early as mid-February, the Congressional Budget Office says. Congressional Republicans are threatening to hold up raising the borrowing authority unless Obama agrees to cut spending.
At the request of White House officials, Neal Wolin, the current deputy secretary, is staying at the Treasury for a transition period.
Porat is no stranger to the Treasury department. In September of 2008, during the financial crisis, then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson hired Morgan Stanley to review the finances of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, prior to the government seizure of the government-sponsored enterprises that buy and back mortgages to provide liquidity in the market.
Morgan Stanley Work
Porat, then head of global financial institutions, working along with Robert Scully, an adviser to then-Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer and Chairman John Mack, led a 39-person team at the investment bank that explored options for Fannie and Freddie.
Porat, with an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, received $11.3 million in compensation in 2011.
She has called for more work visas for students with engineering and high-tech degrees as a way to spur innovation.
“We should staple a visa to every post-graduate degree,” she said at a Lincoln Center forum on Nov. 16, 2011.
Burwell, who graduated from Harvard College in 1987 and then won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, also serves on the board of Metlife Insurance, for which she received $259,000 in 2011.
The next OMB director would have to manage federal agencies if $110 billion in automatic spending cuts are scheduled to take effect on March 1.
Burwell worked for Robert Rubin in the Clinton’s National Economic Council and then at Treasury during the government shutdown in 1995. After the Clinton administration, she worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In January 2012, she moved to the Wal-Mart foundation to serve as president.
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