Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.
The beleaguered Wall Street bank hired Craig — now in private practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — in recent weeks to help in navigate the halls of power in Washington, a source familiar with the firm told POLITICO.
“He is clearly an attorney of eminence and has a deep understanding of the legal process and the world of Washington,” the source said. “And those are important worlds for everybody in finance right now.”
They’re particularly important for Goldman.
On Friday, the SEC charged the firm with securities fraud in a convoluted subprime mortgage deal that took place before the collapse of the housing market. Next week, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein will face questions from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is looking into the causes of the housing meltdown, the source said.
In Craig, Goldman Sachs will have help from a lawyer with deep connections in Democratic circles.
Craig served as White House counsel during the first year of Obama’s presidency, but is seen as having been pushed out for his role in advocating a strict timeline for the closing of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. His departure frustrated many liberal Obama supporters who saw Craig as a strong advocate for undoing some of what they saw as the worst excesses of the Bush era.
But the source familiar with Goldman’s operations said Craig wasn’t hired just because he’s well-connected.
“It’s about advice and process,” the source said. “People will always leap to the conclusion that it’s about somebody’s Rolodex.”
Skadden declined to comment on Craig’s role with Goldman.
"A former White House employee cannot appear before any unit of the Executive Office of the President on behalf of any client for 2 years—one year under federal law and another year under the pledge pursuant to the January 2009 ethics E0," said a White House official.
The official also said that the White House had no contact with the SEC on the Goldman Sachs case. "The SEC by law is an independent agency that does not coordinate with the White House any part of their enforcement actions."
Whatever the reason for his hiring, Craig will presumably be a key player in the intricate counterattack Goldman Sachs officials in Washington and Manhattan improvised during the weekend — a plan that took clearer shape Monday as Britain and Germany announced that they might conduct their own investigations of the firm. (Continues here)