Joyce Brayboy is the Vice President of the Goldman Sachs Office of Government Affairs in the Washington, D.C. office. David Landers is the Vice President of Government Relations at Managed Funds Association. David Landers and Joyce Brayboy sat down with the Duke in D.C. program Tuesday to speak about their experiences in the public and private sectors as well as the upcoming election.
DPR: How does the 2016 election affect your job?
David: The 2016 election will impact my job because the Managed Fund Association, as a trade association representing hedge funds, will be paying very careful attention to the direction that the next administration will take. In terms of financial services regulatory policy, whether it’s a Democrat, let’s just say Hillary Clinton for example, or if it’s one of the Republican candidates, they will bring with them certain thoughts and perspectives about regulating not only hedge funds but also investment banks, and commercial banks. I should also say that the Managed Fund Association also includes a lot of the service providers of hedge funds too–Goldman Sachs and others. So we are going to be paying very careful attention because we will care a lot about who the next President might appoint as Secretary of the Treasury, what they will do in terms of next steps and regulation. There’s a law–the Dodd-Frank Act, which provides regulation for the financial services industry–we care about what the next administration will do in terms of implementing aspects of that. You spend a lot of time in the lead up to the November elections trying to anticipate changes that will be taking place next year and positioning and preparing yourself accordingly. The election also impacts the legislative agenda in Congress because typically a presidential race affects down-ballot races as well. Whether a Democrat is running strong or if a Republican is running strong will tend to affect the makeup of Congress. We can talk about this later–but obviously the Republicans currently hold the majority in Congress and more narrowly in the Senate. I think it is widely thought that the Senate majority could change depending on who is elected President, so that very much impacts what we do.
Joyce: My views are not dissimilar to what David has said because we are in the same industry, the financial services industry. From the presidential perspective as he described, where do we start? If it’s Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or one of the Republicans who becomes the nominee and wins the presidency then it will be a very different environment for our industry in each case. It would be a completely different environment in terms of how Senator Sanders approaches the financial services industry compared with the other candidates. For example, he has indicated that big banks should be regulated by restoring the Glass Steagall Act, and Hillary Clinton wants to strengthen some aspects of the Dodd-Frank Act, whereas the Republicans do not. We will have to wait and see and figure out how best to operate. The regulatory climate will change a lot based on which party is in the White House and, as [David] described, what happens in the House and the Senate in terms of which party is in the majority. Everything we do is heavily determined by the political environment and in particular the regulatory environment. In terms of the House and the Senate, they’ll have different agendas. Speaker Paul Ryan is very likely to have a legislative agenda that is different than Speaker Boehner’s was. And if the Democrats win back the majority in the Senate the chairman of Banking Committee would be Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He is a thoughtful progressive, but his agenda would be different than if Republicans retain the majority. We don’t know exactly what his priorities will be and for that matter we really don’t know what the priorities will be for the current Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama.
DPR: How has your work on the Hill helped you succeed in your current work on government relations?
David: I think one of the things that you’re probably already seeing or will see as you spend time in Washington is so much of the outcome of a public policy debate is determined by process. And what do I mean by process? The arcane rules of the House and the Senate to a considerable degree dictate what’s possible, what kind of results can happen… I can’t tell you how much time I spend talking to people who are clients or members of the Association or people who are seeking to understand what might happen in Washington, sophisticated people in their own right, who just don’t know the processes of Capitol Hill. A lot of times you can give a pretty good prediction about what’s going to happen, even if you don’t know that much about the issue, if people tell you a few basic facts and then you can tell them, based on what I know about Congressional procedure this is what can happen and this is what can’t happen. The way that the Congress is set up, it is setup to make stuff not happen. It is very hard for bills to be enacted to law; it is very easy to stop things. So there are a million road blocks and a million procedural tricks that people can utilize. And a lot of what I think working on Capitol Hill tells us is how the process works so you can just give an accurate appraisal. And one other thing I’ll just say is that Capitol Hill is like a small town, it functions like a small town. People are friends, they know each other. This is the nation’s capital; it is the capital of the free world. But in a lot of ways up there, it’s just a little small town and it’s surprising how the relationships that are formed up there impact public policy. You make friends and you stay friends. People form relationships when they are working up on Capitol Hill and that carries through their career. So the relationships are very important too.
Joyce: I agree with David, establishing solid relationships is probably one of the single most important aspects of our work on Capitol Hill and as lobbyists. But I think you will learn that relationships are also very important as you grow in your personal and professional relationships. It may well be one of the most important components of your success in class, your success in graduate school and as you move forward, because you are constantly learning from each other. On Capitol Hill you have an opportunity to receive so much information. I think what members of Congress generally– in the model that my former boss valued most, as I’m sure the members that David worked for–you want to hear both sides, the pros and cons of an argument so that you have the best, most accurate and truthful information that you can receive and then you can form a more informed opinion. And I think that’s what the nature of public policy is all about, right? You want to be able to reach some consensus and make the best public policy based on the information and analysis that you are able to discover and find out through the process. In my day-to-day work it is important to try to educate members of Congress and their staffs on how business operates and public policy can positively or negatively affect our global business operations. Sometimes that process can get lost in the political noise surrounding financial services institutions. One of the things that I have benefitted from the most, having worked on the Hill, is my solid reputation of being honest, straightforward and candi. And that is how I was able to establish and then maintain the relationships over many years. That has helped me tremendously in my career.
DPR: What were some of the challenges and advantages that you experienced when you switched from public to private sector work?
Joyce: I think one of the biggest challenges when you work in a congressional office is you have only one boss which means you have to learn what his/her preferences are, their personal and professional styles in terms of how they communicate both internally and externally in their day-to-day work ethic and expectations of staff. When you enter the private sector you are working for a bureaucracy of sorts. So probably the biggest challenge for me was how to navigate in a large organization when you were accustomed to having a great deal of access and influence in working for one particular member with a small staff to then having to learn and get to know the leadership, people and culture working in a large corporation. Just trying to find your niche and where you fit in and what value proposition you bring to the table and really just getting to know people was very challenging, especially since the headquarters are in New York and I’m based in D.C. I’m not where most of the action is going on and most likely I would have been able to learn the organization a lot faster if I was there and could just actually interact with more people, more frequently. It’s kind of like if you all can imagine spending your whole Duke career here in D.C. when all the action is occurring on campus in Durham. So that’s been one of my challenges is learning how to adapt and work within a large organization. The advantages are you have a little bit more control over your own time and schedule when working on the Hill you really don’t.
David: I agree with everything Joyce said. In fact, when I was at Credit Suisse, I had a very similar experience. When you work for a company, particularly a New York based company and you are a lobbyist based in Washington, you have to spend a lot of time going back to the home office so that the various business units are reminded that you are there and you are a resource for them because it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” You want to make sure that the company knows that you are a resource because you are essentially constantly trying to roam around and make sure you know what the problems are. Sometimes people are living such busy lives they don’t have time to stop and tell you that’s what they are worried about. Or they may not know to be worried about something, so it’s a challenge. When I first left the Hill, I’ll tell you what one difference was. I went from the Senate to working in a law firm. One of the first things I noticed is when you are a staffer on Capitol Hill the way the world works is the information comes to you, people are always lobbying you, and very intelligent people are constantly digesting information for you, and your job is to sift through all of that and put it into a form that a member of congress can comprehend easily. When you leave Capitol Hill, one of the first things that you notice is: “Shoot all of the information is not coming to me! I have to go chase it down!” Back in the day, before we had email, if you needed to get a bill that was going to be marked up in a markup session you had to find someone to make a copy of it for you or run to Kinkos and make a copy of it yourself. I can’t emphasize enough how much more difficult it is to get information when you are not a Hill staffer and it is something that you take for granted, but when the shoe is on the other foot you have to learn how to chase down the information. Fortunately, the way it typically works is that you have friendships and relationships and people are constantly sharing things with you. But a lot of what we probably both do, even now, is talk to people up on Capitol Hill to take their temperature and get a sense of what is happening so that you can then return information to the people that you report to so that you can give your interpretation of what is happening on Capitol Hill.