Mnuchin vs. Fink — two heavy-hitters of finance are about to battle it out

The World Economic Forum in the snowy mountains of Davos will this year bring together two of the most eminent economic minds in the United States.

Steven Mnuchin, the current U.S. finance minister, will take the stage Thursday in a CNBC-moderated panel entitled "The Remaking of Global Finance." Larry Fink, chief of investment management giant BlackRock, will add his voice to what's likely to be a healthy, yet perhaps fiery, discussion.

Indeed, if some reports are to be believed, Fink could even have been sitting on this panel as the American finance chief if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election, instead of Donald Trump.

Fink, whose firm manages more than $6 trillion in investments, has already caused a stir on Wall Street this year after reportedly sending a letter to business leaders urging them to become more socially responsible.

Larry Fink
Olivia Michael | CNBC
Larry Fink

In what could be seen as a veiled shot at Trump administration, he also said he's seeing "many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining ... As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges."

In the other corner, Mnuchin will be able to boast the recent Republican-led tax overhaul in the U.S. when he visits Switzerland this week. The former Goldman Sachs banker is responsible for government borrowing at the heart of Washington, and he assisted in the rewriting of the tax code which saw the corporate rate fall from 35 percent to 21 percent.

But Trump's finance man isn't without his critics. He reportedly explored the idea of using a military jet to fly him and his wife to their European honeymoon over the summer. He has said it was in order to make sure still had access to secure communications and information.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reacts during a press conference after attending the Franchise Expo West in Los Angeles, California, November 2, 2017.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reacts during a press conference after attending the Franchise Expo West in Los Angeles, California, November 2, 2017.

And at the time of his appointment, commentators reminded him of his time running mortgage lender IndyMac, renamed OneWest Bank, which has a record of foreclosures. It's difficult to say where IndyMac would rate on Fink's social responsibility scale, although Wall Street Journal analysis shows that foreclosures spiked before Munchin arrived at the firm and weren't larger in number than other lenders.

Sparks could fly on Thursday. If the duel over austerity between Larry Summers and ex-U.K. Finance Minister George Osborne from a few years back is anything to go by, then it could be a riveting watch.

—CNBC will air "The Remaking of Global Finance" from the World Economic Forum on Thursday January 25 at 10:00 a.m. CET

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