Senator Elizabeth Warren opposes President Barack Obama's nomination of Antonio Weiss to a top Treasury Department post because of the Lazard Ltd. executive's work on corporate tax inversions, a person familiar with the lawmaker's position said.
Warren's move highlights tensions within the Democratic Party over the influence of the finance industry. It comes a day after Senate Democrats elevated Warren to a leadership position and praised her populist voice.
Weiss, global head of investment banking at Lazard, was nominated earlier this week to be the Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance. Lazard, a merger advisory firm, has been involved in several tax-inversion deals.
The firm has its legal address in Hamilton, Bermuda, after taking advantage of a gap in an anti-inversion statute that the Treasury Department later closed through regulation.
The Obama administration has been trying to curb the practice of inversions, in which companies reduce taxes by moving their addresses overseas.
The Treasury Department announced new rules in September, leading to the demise of the proposed merger of AbbVie Inc. and Shire Plc. The government is considering another round and Obama has been urging Congress to act.
Obama chose Weiss to be a top lieutenant to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, who in July criticized inversions and called for a new "economic patriotism."
The Weiss nomination could provide senators with their first formal chance to weigh in on inversions. They've been unable to agree on legislation to curb the practice.
Lazard advised on three of the four inversions most recently announced in the U.S., including Burger King Worldwide Inc.'s planned adoption of a Canadian tax address through a takeover of Tim Hortons Inc. Weiss is a longtime adviser to the group of Brazilian investors who control Burger King.
Warren isn't a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which will consider the nomination before it reaches the full Senate. She is concerned with the revolving door of officials moving between the administration and Wall Street, the person said.
Lawmakers on the Finance panel haven't said yet whether they will hold a hearing on Weiss this year with Democrat Ron Wyden in charge or wait until next year after Republican Orrin Hatch takes over as chairman of the committee, when majority control of the Senate shifts to the Republicans.
Weiss donated $32,400 to Senate Democrats' campaign committee last year, according to federal records. He has also given money to three of the 13 Democrats on the Finance Committee: Maria Cantwell of Washington, Mark Warner of Virginia and Charles Schumer of New York.
The previous occupant of that job, Mary Miller, was chosen by Obama in July 2011. Her confirmation hearing didn't occur until Nov. 17 of that year, suggesting it would take unusual speed to confirm Weiss with the Senate under Democratic control.
One Republican on the Senate Finance panel, Charles Grassley of Iowa, said in a statement yesterday that the Weiss nomination showed the "hypocrisy" of the Obama administration and that he expected a lot of questions.
The Treasury Department has been trying to build support for Weiss. On Nov. 12, it sent reporters quotes praising his advocacy for the middle class from former Obama adviser Gene Sperling and from Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a Washington group aligned with Democrats.
Erin Donar, a spokeswoman for Treasury, declined to comment today on Warren's opposition to Weiss.
In the Treasury job, Weiss wouldn't be responsible for tax policy. Instead, he would coordinate policies on banking, debt financing, capital markets and regulation. The undersecretary also works on implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial law.
Weiss has been a top Wall Street donor to Obama. He joined Lazard in 1993 and has also served as global head of mergers and acquisitions for the firm and a vice chairman of European investment banking.
He would replace Miller, who left the department in September. Matthew Rutherford, who had been assistant secretary for financial markets, has been acting undersecretary since Miller left.
Weiss, who holds a master's of business administration degree from Harvard University and is publisher of the Paris Review literary magazine, worked on many of the largest and highest-profile mergers and acquisitions of the past six years often involving multibillion-dollar takeovers of major U.S. consumer companies.
He was a key adviser to Belgian-Brazilian brewing company InBev when it acquired Anheuser-Busch in 2008 for $52 billion to form Anheuser-Busch InBev NV. Later, he advised the firm on its $20 billion acquisition of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo in 2013.