The new White House communications director will bring the storm Trump wantsGet the Full StoryThomson Reuters
America, your world is about to get much more Wall Street.
With the selection of Anthony Scaramucci as his communications director, President Donald Trump is bringing Wall Street to Main Street through the door of the White House.
Scaramucci known affectionately on Wall Street as "The Mooch" is charming, loquacious, effusive, combative, single-minded, transactional, over the top, and loyal to a fault. He will bring a storm with him it's most likely the storm Trump wants.
It's unclear whether it's the storm Trump needs.
Scaramucci brings to the White House not only his smooth style and experience with the international jet set but also a distinctly Wall Street set of complications. Some of them relate to the White House's ongoing drama with the Russia investigations.
Aside from that, the business Scaramucci founded, SkyBridge, has yet to finalize its sale to a Chinese firm, HNA.
HNA is a massive conglomerate reaching the end of a multiyear buying spree, and it is now under intense scrutiny in China and around the world. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin must approve the sale as part of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US.
We'll get to both in a bit.
How a man becomes a Mooch
For years, Scaramucci was Wall Street's unofficial master of ceremonies the Long Island son of a construction worker who talked and boxed his way through Harvard Law and up the ladders of finance. He bought SkyBridge from Citigroup during the depths of the financial crisis and built it into a bridge between financial advisers at firms like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley and the brightest stars of the hedge fund world.
That's just one aspect of the business. What turned Scaramucci into The Mooch was more likely the annual bash SkyBridge throws at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the SkyBridge Alternatives, or SALT, conference.
It is a Davos-in-the desert gathering of the globalists Scaramucci is a fixture at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland as well but with a particular Wall Street flavor of fete. Guests have ranged from Karl Rove to Vice President Joe Biden, from Appaloosa founder David Tepper to former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke Lenny Kravitz and The Killers have performed.
And so it isn't hard to imagine a man with this kind of Rolodex stepping into politics. Scaramucci joined the ranks of Republican donors during the Obama administration. He first caught the spotlight after getting in a very public argument with President Obama, while voicing his opposition to post-financial-crisis regulation on the industry.
He has remained vocal about his opposition to such regulation since. He recently compared a rule meant to force financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients to the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision in 1857, which upheld the idea that African-American slaves were not citizens. He had to explain, later, that he was talking about bad laws not trying to claim persecution comparable to slaves', but you still get the point.
Scaramucci backed Mitt Romney in 2012, but he switched horses a few times in the most recent election. He joined the Trump campaign in May 2016 after stints supporting Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. His aim was to be in a campaign where he could have a central role, and in Trump's inexperienced operation he was a political veteran.
A man for the storm
REUTERS Steve Marcus
In Scaramucci, Trump will find a clear communicator with teeth. He will also find the loyalty he needs.
By way of example, I offer billionaire investor Steve Cohen, the founder of the now-defunct, but once legendary, hedge fund SAC Capital. SAC, you may recall, was taken down by charges of insider trading.
Cohen no longer manages outside money, and the firm was forced to pay a 1.2 billion fine.
Scaramucci spoke out in Cohen's defense until the bitter end. Even after SAC was hit with the insider-trading charge, Scaramucci had positive things to say about his friend.
"At the end of the day, I like Steve," Scaramucci said on CNBC via telephone from his vacation. "He's a friend of mine. I have tried to teach my children and my employees and people around me you stick by your friends when they're in trouble, and if he's obviously done something wrong here, hopefully, it gets settled very quickly."
Cohen is expected to make a comeback, but no one knew that during the storm. In defending his friend, Scaramucci took a massive risk, and that's the kind of risk Trump most likely wants to see his communications director take for him every day.
Even outside the White House, Scaramucci has used his position as a fixture on Fox News and his presence on Twitter to defend the administration most recently defending Donald Trump Jr.'s recently uncovered 2016 meeting with a Russian government lawyer in June of last year.
Of course, Scaramucci has had to account for his own meetings with Russian figures. At this year's World Economic Forum, he met with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a 10 billion state-run investment vehicle that the US government sanctioned in 2015. At the time, Scaramucci told the Russian news outlet TASS that he thought sanctions were ineffective.
This meeting complicated things for Scaramucci's position in the White House, but he stayed loyal to Trump after his appointment dragged on. He wasn't expected at this year's SALT conference in May. It was expected that by this time his firm's sale would be closed and he would be comfortably in the White House. But there were setbacks according to reports, Omarosa Manigault stole his office at one point and The Mooch made it to the Bellagio to be master of ceremonies once more.
There he reiterated his loyalty to team Trump. But with every mention of the president, his Wall Street guests could only respond with nervous laughter. Wall Streeters do not like uncertainty. They do not like matters that remain unresolved.
Like a rolling stone
And so the lack of resolution to the sale of SkyBridge has had people all over the business talking. That especially after Bloomberg reported that at a sale price of about 180 million, the buyers China's HNA and a Venezuelan-born banker with ties to Hugo Chavez were vastly overpaying.
HNA has had a tumultuous few months. The massive conglomerate grew out of the past five years of a foreign asset-buying spree for Chinese financial firms. That spree is over, according to the government, and now that the dust is settling Chinese officials have questions. HNA itself has been caught in a domestic political firestorm.
There are questions about who really owns HNA. There are questions about whether it's safe to do business with them Bank of America has told clients it won't . The European Central Bank is investigating its less-than-10 stake in Deutsche Bank. Scaramucci's huge payoff, meanwhile, depends on this same fund closing a deal.
And here at home there is CFIUS. Pursuant to section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, the Treasury must review any transactions that would result in control of a US business by a foreign person.
Mnuchin will have to sign off on this deal, and it is not a simple one.
There's also the fact that this appointment hasn't come without turmoil in the White House. It reportedly prompted Sean Spicer to quit his job as press secretary, and other administration insiders are believed to have opposed it.
And there is Russia and the sanctioned fund manager there.
There is already a storm in the White House, and Scaramucci will be adding to it.NOW WATCH: Watch Trump's new WH communications director call him a 'hack' in 2015