To defend industry interests, hedge fund taps Bush administration alum

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The hedge fund industry’s main trade association has hired a Carlyle Group partner to be its new president, as the investment firms look to bolster their lobbying presence ahead of what promises to be a turbulent political year.

Bryan Corbett will join the Managed Funds Association on Jan. 21, the Washington-based group said on Wednesday. A Republican who worked at the White House and Treasury during the George W. Bush administration, Corbett handled legislative affairs at Carlyle for five years before being promoted to a job involving the private-equity firm’s investments.

The MFA represents more than 100 hedge funds, including D.E. Shaw, Renaissance Technologies, Elliott Management and Bridgewater Associates. Though the industry has traditionally tried to keep a low profile in Washington, it regularly lobbies on tax and financial regulation issues.

Hedge funds — like most large financial services companies — are concerned that they could become fodder for political attacks during the 2020 presidential campaign. A number of Democratic contenders, most notably Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have taken strong anti-Wall Street stances, bashing both investment firms and the rich people who run them.

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“There is going to be a real need for strong advocacy over the next couple of years,” said Corbett, who will replace Richard Baker, the former Louisiana congressman.

The job is one of the highest-paying among Washington trade groups. Baker, who announced his retirement last year, earned $2.2 million, according to the MFA’s 2018 public tax filing.

Corbett said he plans to push the association to get more involved not only at the federal government level, but also in the states and internationally, where the U.K.’s exit from the European Union has fueled uncertainty in the markets. He also will be looking to grow the organization’s membership.

Before joining Carlyle in 2008, Corbett, 47, was a special assistant to President Bush for economic policy and a senior advisor to the deputy Treasury secretary. He began his government career as a counsel on the Senate Banking Committee under then-Chairman Richard Shelby.

In an interview, Carlyle's co-executive chairman, David Rubenstein, said that while he’s sorry to see Corbett leave, he understands why the MFA sought him out.

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