Ex-Hedge Fund Lawyer Seeks New York Public Advocate Nod

Sep 9 2013 | 9:52am ET

Lost amidst the attention paid to the New York City mayoral and comptroller elections this year, a former hedge fund lawyer is seeking election further down the ballot.

Reshma Saujani, who formerly worked at Carlyle Blue Wave Partners and Fortress Investment Group, is battling four other Democrats for the public advocate nomination tomorrow. The public advocate serves as a watchdog over city government and is first in the line of succession to the mayoralty.

Saujani, who lives in Manhattan, is facing a pair of much more seasoned politicians in the form of City Council Member Leticia James and State Senator Daniel Squadron, both of Brooklyn, as well as longtime Brooklyn community liaison and current New York Police Department community-relations specialist Sidique Wai, and Columbia University Teachers College professor Cathy Guerriero.

A poll last month showed James leading the race, but with only 16% support, followed by Guerriero and Squadron, with 12% apiece. The winner of the primary is all-but-assured of election, as New York City's vastly outnumbered Republicans are not fielding a candidate.

During a debate last month, Saujani challenged the front-runner, James, on ethical issues, while James attacked Saujani for working "for a who's who of bad actors on Wall Street." Asked about why her campaign biography did not include her most recent Wall Street jobs, Saujani, who said she is still paying off her law-school loans, said, "My first job was at Baskin-Robbins. That doesn't appear on my Web site, either." In an earlier, debate, she promised to "reinvent this office" with an "army of lawyers."

The race is Saujani's second; in 2010, she challenged long-time Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary. Maloney, who has represented the Upper East Side-based district for two decades, easily defended her nomination.

Following that election, Saujani was named deputy public advocate by the newly-elected public advocate, Bill DeBlasio. DeBlasio is now the front-runner in tomorrow's Democratic primary for mayor.

In that role, Saujani established a program to allow undocumented immigrants to attend City University of New York colleges. She has also founded a non-profit organization designed to attract teenage New York City girls to engineering and computer programming.

In the earlier debate, Saujani defended her work on Wall Street, arguing, "I didn't foreclose on homes, I didn't trade stocks, I didn't make investment decisions," and offered a somewhat tepid defense of her clients.

"There are some corrupt people in Wall Street, and they should be in jail," she said. "But there's also some good working people."

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