Jeffrey Zients

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Jeffrey Zients
Official portrait, 2012
Official portrait, 2012
Counselor to the President
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
Serving with Steve Ricchetti
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byHope Hicks
Derek Lyons
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byDeborah Birx
10th Director of the National Economic Council
In office
March 5, 2014 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byGene Sperling
Succeeded byGary Cohn
Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget
In office
January 27, 2012 – April 24, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyHeather Higginbottom
Preceded byJack Lew
Succeeded bySylvia Mathews Burwell
In office
July 30, 2010 – November 18, 2010
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyJeffrey Liebman
Preceded byPeter R. Orszag
Succeeded byJack Lew
1st Chief Performance Officer of the United States
In office
June 19, 2009 – October 16, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byBeth Cobert
Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget for Management
In office
June 19, 2009 – October 16, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byClay Johnson III
Succeeded byBeth Cobert
Personal details
Born
Jeffrey Dunston Zients

(1966-11-12) November 12, 1966 (age 54)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Spouse(s)Mary Menell
EducationDuke University (BA)

Jeffrey Dunston Zients (born November 12, 1966) is an American business executive and government official serving as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator since 2021, succeeding Deborah Birx.

He was the director of the National Economic Council from February 2014 to January 2017. Zients was also acting director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2010 and from 2012 to 2013. Before entering government, Zients was an executive at firms including The Advisory Board Company and CEB.

As of December 2020, Zients was on leave from his position as chief executive officer of Cranemere, an investment firm. He was a member of Facebook's board of directors from 2018 to 2020. In January 2021, he began serving as both Counselor to the President and Coordinator of the COVID-19 response in the Biden administration.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Zients was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Kensington, Maryland.[2] His family is Jewish.[3][4][5] Zients graduated from the St. Albans School prep school in 1984 and received a degree in political science from Duke University,[6] graduating summa cum laude in 1988.[7]

Business career[edit]

After college, Zients worked in management consulting for Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman) and Bain & Company. As a consultant Zients reportedly "fell in love with Bain's culture, teamwork … and analytical rigor".[8] After Bain, he was appointed the chief operating officer of DGB Enterprises, a holding company for the Advisory Board Company, Corporate Executive Board, and Atlantic Media Company.[9]

Advisory Board and Corporate Executive Board[edit]

Zients was the chief operating officer (1996–1998), chief executive officer (1998–2000), and chairman (2001–2004) of the Advisory Board Company and former chairman (2000–2001) of the Corporate Executive Board.[10] Zients and David G. Bradley took each of the companies public through initial public offerings that made both men multimillionaires.[5][11]

Portfolio Logic[edit]

Zients founded and was the managing partner of Portfolio Logic LLC, an investment firm primarily focused on health care and business services.[10] He was a member of the board of directors of XM Satellite Radio until its 2008 merger, and a board member at Sirius XM Radio until his Senate confirmation.[8][12] Zients also sat on the boards of Revolution Health Group and Timbuk2 Designs.[11]

Baseball[edit]

In 2005, Zients formed a group with Colin Powell and Fred Malek, among others, to compete for the purchase of the Washington Nationals.[13][14] The group planned for Malek to be the managing partner for the first three years, after which Zients would take over.[14] The group was unsuccessful; the team was purchased by a group led by the Lerner family.[10]

Obama administration[edit]

Office of Management and Budget[edit]

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Zients to the new position of United States Chief Performance Officer and Deputy Director for Management (DDM) of the Office of Management and Budget.[15][16] It was Zients's first governmental experience.[17]

According to Obama, his assignment was to help "streamline processes, cut costs, and find best practices throughout" the U.S. government.[16] His nomination was approved by the Senate in June 2009.[18][19] As DDM, Zients established and chaired the President's Management Council.[20]

Zients was the acting director of OMB from July 2010 to November 2010, and again from January 2012 to April 2013.[21][additional citation(s) needed]

Healthcare.gov[edit]

Following the error-plagued launch of healthcare.gov on October 1, 2013, Obama and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough asked Zients to take charge of fixing the website.[22][23][24][25] While leading the "tech surge" to do that, Zients also had an ownership position in PSA Healthcare. The position of the White House was that Zients's stake in PSA Healthcare, a pediatric home health business, was not a conflict of interest.[22]

National Economic Council[edit]

Zients speaking at White House press briefing on a possible government shutdown (2011)

From 2014 to 2017, Zients was an assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council (NEC).[21] Zients also chaired the President's Management Advisory Board.[26] The Wall Street Journal called Zients "a kind of ambassador to the business community",[8] and lobbying groups such as the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce praised Zients as someone who heard them out.[27]

At NEC, Zients worked with the Department of Labor to finalize the fiduciary rule, also known as the conflict of interest rule. It required financial advisers to provide advice in their clients' best interest. The rule was strongly criticized by Wall Street leaders and business groups and was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2018.[28][27]

In 2015, while NEC director, Zients described the Trans-Pacific Partnership as "a massive tax cut for American businesses".[29]

Private sector[edit]

Facebook[edit]

Zients joined Facebook's board of directors in 2018, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.[30] While on Facebook's board, Zients chaired the Audit and Risk Oversight Committee.[31][32] According to Facebook, he declined to seek re-election in 2020 "to devote more time to his business and other professional interests".[33] Zients was paid $100,000 in cash and roughly $300,000 in stock in exchange for his work on Facebook's audit committee.[32] As of December 2020, Zients had reportedly sold all of his holdings of Facebook stock.[32]

Cranemere[edit]

Zients was the CEO of the Wall Street investment firm Cranemere, an investment firm owned by Vincent Mai, for which he earned a combined salary and bonus of $1.6 million.[27][34] As of December 2020, Zients was on leave from his position as chief executive officer of Cranemere.[27]

Biden administration[edit]

In summer 2020, Saguaro Strategies, a media and consulting firm, heavily edited Zients's Wikipedia page as he became more prominent in the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign.[30]

As of October 2020, Zients was co-chair of the presidential transition of Joe Biden.[35] He was described as "an important power center in the Biden transition team" and noted as a candidate for several positions in the incoming administration.[27] On December 7, 2020, the Biden transition announced Zients's presumptive appointment as coordinator of the COVID-19 response and counselor to the president.[36] The absence of any comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan at the time of the handover from the outgoing Trump administration became an urgent priority for Zients after the inauguration on January 20, 2021. [37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jeff Zients - Build Back Better (Biden transtion)
  2. ^ United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (June 10, 2009). Nominations of Hon. Tara J. O'Toole and Jeffrey D. Zients. p. 148. S. Hrg. 111-838.
  3. ^ Guttman, Nathan (February 28, 2013). "Meet the Four Jews Shaping the U.S. Economy". The Forward. Archived from the original on September 3, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  4. ^ Shin, Annys (October 4, 2004). "Zients Is at the Top of His Game". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 24, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  5. ^ a b O'Keefe, Ed (April 18, 2009). "Who Are Jeffrey Zients and Aneesh Chopra?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  6. ^ James, Frank (October 23, 2013). "White House Turns To 'Rock Star' Manager For Obamacare Fix". NPR. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  7. ^ "On the Road highlight: Jeff Zients". Giving to Duke. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Langley, Monica (July 13, 2012). "The Businessman Behind the Obama Budget". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 2574-9579. ProQuest 1024777785. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  9. ^ "Advisory Board Co. 10-K". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. June 27, 2003. Archived from the original on July 4, 2017. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
  10. ^ a b c "Obama names Chopra, Zients to top posts". Washington Business Journal. Advance Publications. April 17, 2009. Archived from the original on April 21, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  11. ^ a b O'Hara, Terence (August 31, 2007). "There's More Than Baseball in Jeffrey Zients's Days". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  12. ^ "Zients Resigns from Sirius XM Board". Radio Ink. MediaSpan. June 23, 2009. Archived from the original on June 27, 2009. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  13. ^ "Powell Joins Group Bidding On D.C. Baseball Team". Jet. 107 (24). Johnson Publishing. June 13, 2005. p. 50. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  14. ^ a b Heath, Thomas (April 29, 2009). "Malek, Zients Are Big Hitters in an All-Star Ownership Lineup". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 15, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
  15. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (April 18, 2009). "Obama Promises to Trim Federal Fat". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Obama, Barack (April 18, 2009). "(Transcript) Weekly Address: President Obama Discusses Efforts to Reform Spending, Government Waste; Names Chief Performance Officer and Chief Technology Officer". The White House. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  17. ^ Calmes, Jackie (September 13, 2013). "Ex-White House Aide to Be Economic Adviser". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  18. ^ Brodsky, Robert (June 22, 2009). "Zients confirmed as OMB's deputy director of management". GovExec.com. National Journal Group. Archived from the original on June 26, 2009. Retrieved June 22, 2009.
  19. ^ Meckler, Laura (April 20, 2009). "Administration Seeks to Target Wasteful Spending". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  20. ^ Lewis, Katherine Reynolds (June 14, 2010). "Remaking the Bureaucracy: OMB's Zients Cuts Through the Red Tape". The Fiscal Times. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Runningen, Roger (September 13, 2013). "Obama Picks Zients as Director of Economic Council". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on September 17, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2013.
  22. ^ a b Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (November 10, 2013). "Health Website Tests a Tycoon and Tinkerer". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  23. ^ Brill, Steven (March 10, 2014). "Obama's Trauma Team: How an unlikely group of high-tech wizards revived Obama's troubled HealthCare.gov website". Time. Archived from the original on October 17, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  24. ^ Rushe, Dominic (April 16, 2015). "Obama appoints Jeffrey Zients to fix healthcare website". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  25. ^ Eilperin, Juliette (December 22, 2013). "Jeff Zients helped salvage HealthCare.gov. Now he'll be Obama's go-to guy on economy". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 12, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  26. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (April 19, 2010). "Tracking High Priority Infrastructure Projects". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  27. ^ a b c d e Rappeport, Alan (December 1, 2020). "Biden Faces a Balancing Act in Choosing Top Aides With Business Ties". The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  28. ^ Leonhardt, Megan (February 3, 2017). "Inside Wall Street's Secret War on American Investors". Money. Archived from the original on July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  29. ^ Nelson, Colleen McCain; William, Mauldin (October 7, 2015). "White House Compares Trans-Pacific Partnership's Tariff Cuts to Tax Breaks". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  30. ^ a b Thompson, Alex; Meyer, Theodoric (December 3, 2020). "Wikipedia page for Biden' new Covid czar scrubbed of politically damaging material". Politico. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  31. ^ Fischer, Sara (June 14, 2018). "Facebook changes audit committee charter after privacy issues". Axios. Archived from the original on October 1, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  32. ^ a b c Brandom, Russell (December 4, 2020). "Biden coronavirus appointee has cut ties with Facebook, transition team says". The Verge. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  33. ^ Horwitz, Jeff; Seetharaman, Deepa (March 26, 2020). "Facebook Nears Complete Board Overhaul With Latest Exit". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  34. ^ Schwartz, Brian (March 20, 2021). "Biden's closest advisors have ties to big business and Wall Street with some making millions". CNBC. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  35. ^ Tankersley, Jim; Smialek, Jeanna (October 30, 2020). "In Building Economic Team, Biden Faces Tug From Left and Center". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  36. ^ "President-elect Joe Biden Announces Key Members of Health Team". Biden transition. December 7, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  37. ^ Stacey, Kiran (January 20, 2021). "Jeff Zients: the "Mr. Fix-it" in charge of tackling the Covid-19 crisis". The Financial Times. Retrieved January 21, 2021.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Orszag
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Acting

2010
Succeeded by
Jack Lew
Preceded by
Jack Lew
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Acting

2012–2013
Succeeded by
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Preceded by
Gene Sperling
Director of the National Economic Council
2014–2017
Succeeded by
Gary Cohn
Preceded by
Deborah Birx
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator
2021–present
Incumbent