- Wall Street and financial firms across the country are hiring a legion of lobbyists as Democrats prepare to rein in their industry with tighter regulations and increased scrutiny.
- These companies include private equity juggernaut Blackstone, credit card and banking company Discover, consumer credit reporting giant Equifax, and tech-driven stock exchange Members Exchange.
Wall Street and financial firms across the country are hiring a legion of lobbyists as Democrats — who now control the White House, the Senate and the House — prepare to rein in their industry with tighter regulations and increased scrutiny.
These companies include private equity juggernaut Blackstone, credit card and banking company Discover Financial Services, consumer credit reporting giant Equifax, and tech-driven stock exchange Members Exchange. The latter company's investors include BlackRock, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley.
Each of the companies hired lobbyists with ties to both parties, which demonstrates their desire to engage key players in a narrowly divided Congress. Democrats hold only slim majorities in both houses.
President Joe Biden has nominated several Wall Street critics for key administration roles, including Rohit Chopra, a longtime ally of progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is the expected chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, is planning to have the committee "perform aggressive oversight of the largest banks and other financial firms," his office told CNBC on Tuesday.
Blackstone, which is run by former Trump backer Steve Schwarzman, recently hired Ryan McConaghy, a partner at the lobbying shop Forbes Tate. McConaghy, who once worked as an advisor for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will be working for Blackstone's administrative services arm on "issues related to financial services and tax," a lobbying disclosure report says.
The firm also brought on Matt Trant from the National Group to help with "tax legislation, banking legislation, labor legislation," the lobbying registration form says.
The firm has spent millions on influence campaigns over the years. Last year, Blackstone spent over $5 million on lobbying-related expenses, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
A spokesman for Forbes Tate would only confirm that McConaughy is lobbying for Blackstone and declined to comment further. Trant and a spokesman for Blackstone did not respond to a request for comment.
Owl Rock Capital, a New York-based asset management firm co-founded by three Wall Street veterans, recently hired Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, a white-shoe law firm, to lobby for it. Owl Rock had previously turned to Akin Gump, according to a lobbying disclosure report, but terminated that agreement in June.
The team advocating for Owl Rock includes people who used to work with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. A fourth-quarter report says Owl Rock paid the law firm $150,000 to lobby the House and Senate on "issues relating to the regulation of business development companies." It started lobbying for Owl Rock at the end of October.
Before Biden became president, Owl Rock hired Sidley Austin, another law firm, for lobbying. One of its lobbyists working on the Owl Rock account is former Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois.
The Owl Rock website says: "Owl Rock Capital Group and Dyal Capital Partners announced they entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Altimar Acquisition Corporation to form Blue Owl Capital Inc." Reports from December show that the new company went public through a SPAC.
A person familiar with the lobbying effort said the previous hires had less to do with Biden becoming president and more with the work the new company will be conducting as it goes public. This person declined to be named in order to speak freely.
Owl Rock is a direct lending platform with a focus on middle market companies.
A member of the Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer team did not respond to a request for comment. Roskam did not respond to a request for comment. A press representative for Owl Rock did not respond to a request for comment.
Discover, which has a headquarters in Illinois, has an internal lobbying team, but it also recently hired bipartisan lobbying firm Federal Hall Policy Advisors.
Federal Hall specializes in working with financial services companies. Working on behalf of Discover, it will focus on "issues related to the Dodd-Frank Act and issues related to loan underwriting," according to a disclosure report. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation law was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. Pieces of the law were repealed by former President Donald Trump.
Cliff Roberti, a co-founder of the firm, told CNBC the concern from the broader financial services sector is tied to potential committee hearings, along with regulation from certain agencies, including the CFPB.
"We're unlikely to see big financial reform legislation emanate from Congress due to Democrats' razor-thin margin. The bigger congressional threat is the likely string of hearings and investigations that the banking and financial services committees will initiate," Roberti told CNBC on Tuesday. "Ultimately, the sector needs to be mindful of how more aggressive regulatory agencies — especially the CFPB — will be looking to tighten rules and step up enforcement."
Roberti's firm is also representing Capital Market Strategies, which is working on behalf of the New Jersey-based Members Exchange. The tech-driven exchange was first established by Wall Street titans such as Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments and Citadel. It competes directly with the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq as it pitches itself as having fewer fees than the other institutions.
Roberti declined to comment on any specific efforts he is making for his clients.
Press representatives for Discover and Equifax did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the Members Exchange declined to comment.