The revolving door most people think about when it comes to dirty politics is politicians turning lobbyist. The contacts made in the position of power bestowed upon them by their constituent’s turns out to be much more lucrative than anyone thought when placed in the hands of someone willing to pay for it. Once you’ve been dirtied in the back rooms of Washington, pretty much everything is on the table. The last remnant of hope in your soul must die to function in DC. Corruption is how things get done. It’s so pervasive that it doesn’t even feel wrong anymore. It’s just the way things work.
Call it what you like…pay to play…I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine…it’s not what you know it’s who you know…insider trading…back room deals…and on and on! Why do people go to Washington moderately well off and leave multimillionaires? Guess what? It’s not the salary. The real money is in the side deals. The real money is in learning how to play the game. The best players make the most money. Everybody wants to wet their beak, just a little.
I recently wrote about collusion at best, at worst full-fledged corruption, at the EPA. They placed a key environmentalist lawyer in charge of actually writing policy with the key component being to make the standards unattainable for the coal industry. Straight up greasing the skids to kill an entire industry while directly helping environmentalist causes.
This week I’m letting you know that it’s not just politicians we need to watch…how about regulators? No, not “The Regulators” from Young Guns…banking regulators. Sounds boring I know, but it’s got bite. It turns out a certain regulator, Steven Antonakes, who was recently the Deputy Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is quite fond of cigars and back room deals. Mr. Antonakes began as a bank examiner for the Massachusetts Division of Banks until he worked his way up to Assistant Director of Large Bank Supervision. Sounds pretty important…supervising the “Large Banks” of America. I’m sure with a title like that you might get invited to some pretty swanky parties. Maybe even meet up with some incredibly wealthy and powerful folks.
Apparently, it was rather a surprise when Mr. Antonakes unexpectedly stepped down from the CFPB, stating he wanted to be closer to his family. Luckily, he has avoided the bread lines. He has agreed however to take a job as executive and “Compliance Officer” for Eastern Bank in Boston with over $9.6 Billion in assets. Yes, that was a “B” for Billions! How convenient that Mr. Antonakes can enjoy his family while using his unique connections to help his new employer crush their opponents? How wonderful would it be to have the guy who helped write the regulations that are stifling your industry on staff? How awesome it would be if he could help you navigate the shark infested waters he created while leaving the competing banks in the dark. Cue the Jaws sounds in the background.
This is the kind of thing that makes people cynical. The revolving door is really just a giant money machine. Everybody has a price and I bet Mr. Whoever Bank Regulator’s price would choke a horse. I still can see Michael Douglas standing in the rain in Columbia stating the obvious, “I’m not cheap, but I can be had!” Well, we’ve been had, again. I’m quite sure that nobody knows who Steven Antonakes is. They don’t know what his price was. He won’t get any headlines, but the Eastern Bank of Boston sure knows who he is and they poached him quicker than you can say Cecil the Lion!
It’s not like this is a new problem. It’s actually been going on pretty much forever. That doesn’t make it any more palatable. Plenty of good banks are going to be banging their heads on the wall as our benevolent government beats the crap out of them with regulations created by Mr. Antonakes. It will be stunningly lucky that his employer will suddenly find a way around all the red tape. Mr. Antonakes should get a white suit and start calling himself “Don Fanucci” (Godfather Movies) because his beak is wet! He is set. Dodd-Frank, what’s that?
I guess the moral of this article is…there are no morals. If you can afford it, you better look for your own way. Mr. Antonakes…thanks for nothing! If you are in business or basically just a citizen, our government is seriously gunning for you. That’s right, the government sees us only as a source of income that only needs to be properly motivated to pay. The motivation to pay comes from nameless powerful bureaucrats like Don Antonakes. I fear what my government is capable of. I fear what these cartels within our gates are capable of. As Thomas Jefferson stated, “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” We are already living under a soft tyranny. Hard tyranny…that’s going to leave a mark.