Schumer recusal raises questions about conflicted role in Ticketmaster deal

Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer recused himself from further oversight of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger after we reported that his brother had played a key role in the deal. Schumer had initially called the merger “a good deal for New York.” His office later claimed that the Senator had not known that his brother was involved.

Schumer’s recusal raises an important question: as a powerful Senator, a member of the antitrust subcommittee, and the brother of a top M&A attorney, is this the first time he recused himself from oversight of a merger deal? His brother has been a key dealmaker on many mergers which required antitrust approval, and several have triggered regulatory action – in the US and abroad. Schumer’s office has not responded to multiple requests for information about past recusals. A Senate Judiciary Committee official turned up no past recusals in a review, but suggested that Schumer’s office would be a better source.

In any case, Robert Schumer did not put together the merger that really caught our eye – his wife did. Pamela Seymon, the Senator’s sister-in-law, was Ticketmaster’s lead outside counsel on its 2009 merger with Live Nation, a $2.5 billion deal which drew the ire of consumer groups, musicians, and lawmakers. Initially, Schumer opposed the merger. Then he seemed to have a change of heart, and began lauding Ticketmaster for collaborating with him on legislation targeting the ticket resale market. On the antitrust implications of the deal, he went silent.

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Schumer recuses himself from Comcast deal, claims no knowledge of brother’s role

Yesterday we reported that Senator Chuck Schumer, who called the Comcast-Time Warner Cable “a good deal” for New York, has ties to one of the key dealmakers involved – his brother, Robert Schumer, was Time Warner Cable’s lead outside attorney on the deal.

Our report prompted Senator Schumer, who sits on the antitrust subcommittee, to recuse himself from further consideration of the deal. Schumer’s communications director, Matt House, provided this statement to the Huffington Post:

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Schumer reassures New York about Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, doesn’t mention his brother was the dealmaker

Following news of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, key members of Congress promised to take a close look at the merger. Some, like Senator Al Franken, sharply criticized the deal and what it would mean for consumers. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the antitrust subcommittee, announced plans for a hearing to “scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”

All it took to reassure Senator Chuck Schumer that the deal was a good thing was a quick phone call over to Comcast executives, who were happy to offer vague assurances about continued jobs commitments in New York State.

Schumer is a member of the Senate Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, like Franken and Klobuchar, but made no mention of antitrust or consumer issues in a lengthy press release announcing that he had spoken to Comcast executives.

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Former SEC Chair’s shift at Promontory Financial raises questions about revolving door

Last month former SEC Chair Mary Schapiro made an unexpected change to her employment in the private sector, moving from an executive position to an advisory role at Promontory Financial, the regulatory consulting firm that both services Wall Street’s compliance needs and serves at the top tier revolving door destination for former financial regulators. While it was Schapiro’s initial move to Promontory that sparked murmurings about the regulatory revolving door, her decision to move out of what was surely a lucrative position within the company is curious. The New York TimesDeal Book reported that while at Promontory, Schapiro imposed tight regulations on herself, pledging to never represent a client before a government agency:

And after spending her entire career as a regulator — at the S.E.C., the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s self-regulatory group — Ms. Schapiro privately remarked to friends that consulting work was not the right fit.

Schapiro’s self-imposed standards are notable as the Promontory model clearly relies on hiring ex-regulators to work for businesses they once had oversight over, and to represent those businesses before regulatory agencies where they used to work.

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New details on hyped Tomahawk missile reveal holes in Raytheon’s message

In September PAI released a report detailing the defense industry ties of commentators and think tanks who were active in debating intervention in Syria, including former national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. We found that Hadley, now a director at Raytheon, one of the US’s largest defense contractors and the manufacturer of the popular Tomahawk cruise missile, did not disclose his industry ties when making the media rounds on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg TV, as an expert on defense and security.

During our investigation we noticed the repetitive language used to describe Raytheon’s Tomahawk cruise missile, which was widely accepted as the most popular choice of armament for such an engagement. Repeatedly characterized as smart, precise, and low-damage (meaning fewer innocent casualties), the Tomahawk is painted as both sophisticated and effective. This observation sparked a quick post on the troubled history of the Tomahawk, Raytheon’s investment in lobbying congress, and the media’s odd fascination with the weapon, and a short video of commentators discussing engagement tactics and specifically, the Tomahawk cruise missile. It is worth noting how this weapon’s characteristics inspire strikingly blithe commentary from former officials who seem to forget that the Tomahawk is a weapon, not something you “scatter around” like confetti.

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