President-elect Donald Trump’s transition-team adviser on financial policies and appointments, Paul Atkins, has been depicted as an ideological advocate of small government. But the ways that the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are likely to approach financial deregulation could serve Atkins’ wallet as well as his political agenda. Like Trump himself, Atkins himself faces potential conflicts between his business dealings and his public role.
In 2009, a year after he finished his term as a Republican member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Atkins formed Patomak Global Partners, a consulting firm headquartered on 17th Street, nestled blocks from the Hay-Adams Hotel and the south lawn of the White House. While Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington, Atkins’ environs could not get any swampier. Patomak’s president is Daniel Gallagher, also a right-leaning former SEC commissioner who might be a candidate for SEC chairman under Trump. Former high-level government officials populate Patomak’s ranks.
Patomak has thrived as financial firms tried to navigate the new world of post-crisis regulations. Patomak and its counterparts, like Promontory Financial Group, are not technically lobbyists, but they exploit their connections to regulators to help their clients — banks and other financial institutions — navigate the rules. (Such consulting firms say they help clients comply with, not circumvent, the rules. A Patomak spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.)
The firms stand as emblems of the Washington revolving door. Banks pay a premium to former high-level regulators, valuing them for their contacts at the regulatory agencies. Stacked with Republicans, Patomak is well positioned to benefit from the new power structure in Washington. “They have better lines of communications with those in power. They are better able to see and understand what is coming down the pike,” says one former high-ranking regulator who now works for a hedge fund.