Former Senator Judd Gregg is a leading candidate to run Wall Street’s biggest lobbying group, according to people briefed on the discussions.
Gregg, 66, a New Hampshire Republican who retired from the Senate last year, is being considered for the post as president and chief executive officer of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, said four people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter isn’t public.
Gregg declined to comment. Sifma spokeswoman Cheryl Crispen said the search for a CEO hasn’t been completed and declined to comment further.
If chosen, Gregg would replace Tim Ryan, who left for JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) earlier this year. Sifma’s head lobbyist, Kenneth E. Bentsen, 53, has been acting CEO and also has been a candidate for the top position, the people said. Bentsen is a former Democratic U.S. representative from Texas.
The Sifma job is one of Washington’s highest-paid lobbying positions. Ryan earned $3 million in compensation and benefits in 2011, according to the trade group’s most recent tax filing.
Gregg was New Hampshire’s governor before running for Senate in 1992. While serving as Budget Committee chairman, he won $853,492 in the Powerball lottery in 2005 after buying a ticket with five of the six winning numbers at a Washington gas station.
He nearly joined the administration of President Barack Obama in 2009 as Commerce Secretary. Shortly after the president nominated him for the post, Gregg withdrew from consideration because of disagreements with administration policy, including the economic stimulus package pushed by Obama. Since retiring from Congress, Gregg has been an adviser to Goldman Sachs (GS) Group Inc. and serves on the board of Intercontinental Exchange Inc.
Gregg’s name has been mentioned as a candidate to run a other trade groups, including the Financial Services Roundtable, the Business Roundtable and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council.
If Gregg receives the job he will be the third former Republican governor to lead a banking trade group. Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma, is present and CEO of the American Bankers Association. Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, is president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable.
One of the biggest tasks faced by the new head of Sifma will be to rebuild Wall Street’s image and credibility in Washington, where the biggest banks have been blamed for sparking the 2008 credit crisis and sending the U.S. economy into a tailspin.
Lawmakers have reserved particular scorn for the largest firms, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, summoning their executives to hearings and accusing them of reaping profits at the expense of shareholders and customers.
Gregg was instrumental in crafting legislation that authorized the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out banks. As a Senate Banking Committee member, he opposed proposals to separate banks’ derivatives units and said the Dodd-Frank legislation would reduce credit availability.
Sifma has played a major role helping the industry influence the hundreds of Dodd-Frank regulations being written at the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies. The group is also taking a lead in fighting legislative efforts to break up “too-big-to-fail” banks. Members include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America (BAC) Corp.
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