For someone with no direct finance experience, Eric Cantor is certainly starting off his new career at the top of the totem pole.
Moelis and Company's announcement Tuesday that it had hired the recently-toppled House majority leader came as little surprise to Washington insiders, who had expected Cantor to land a cushy job in an industry that had served as his second home during most of his time in Congress.
Yet in addition to paying him at least $3.4 million over the next two years, the boutique Wall Street firm is handing Cantor, 51, a trio of fancy titles: vice chairman, managing director, and member of its corporate board.
That's quite a leap for a man whose principal business experience before a 23-year career in politics came in real estate.
So don't expect Cantor to be doing much investment banking in his new investment bank job.
A person close to Cantor and familiar with his deliberations described his role at Moelis as being that of a "chief navigator" – analyzing politics, policy and the geopolitical environment while engaging clients "at a very high level" for the firm, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions.
In other words, Cantor is getting a boatload of cash to dish about D.C.
The Cantor associate argued that in his new role, he would tap into many of the same skills he used to shepherd legislation through the House – with mixed success – as majority leader.
"It's a similar thought process obviously in a different platform," the source said.
The associate, who was authorized by Cantor and Moelis to speak on their behalf on the condition of anonymity, said Cantor "cast a wide net" in his search for a new job after his stunning primary loss to David Brat in June.
"He talked to a very large number of people on both coasts from all sectors on opportunities," the associate said.
Both Cantor and the firm's CEO, Ken Moelis, took pains to emphasize that they were not merely buying a big name, or his Rolodex. "I have no need for a political figurehead," Moelis told the Wall Street Journal. "What I want is a partner."
And Cantor wants to make clear that he wasn't seeking a cozy, well-paid perch from which to launch his political comeback.
"This is the real deal," the person close to him told The Wire. "This is not a stop along the way. This is the focus of his attention at a 100 percent level."
Cantor, who was not conducting interviews beyond the one he did at the Wall Street Journal, was on the job Tuesday, meeting with the Moelis team in New York, his associate said. He'll eventually open a D.C. office for the firm, and he'll continue to live in Virginia with his family.
The firm has no internal or external lobbying team, and Cantor is restricted under federal law from lobbying his former colleagues for a year.
On paper, of course, Cantor doesn't come close to meeting the qualifications for a managing director post on Wall Street. A current Moelis job listing for a vice president – a more junior position than managing director – says applicants must have seven years of experience in investment banking, unless they have a collection graduate business degrees that the legally-trained Cantor doesn't posses.
Requirements: Master’s or foreign equivalent degree in Business Administration, Economics, Finance, Accounting or related field; 2) Plus 5 years in financial management or related analysis experience within the investment banking industry; 3) At least 3 of the required 5 years of experience must include research and valuation analysis, debt and equity offerings or financing, executing capital markets transactions, monitoring relevant transactions and market conditions, M & A, creating client-specific financial or valuation models, building and maintaining client relationships with corporate and financial sponsor clients within the telecommunications, wireless, restaurant and energy sectors; 4) Must have Series 7, 63 and 79 licenses.
Alternatively, Bachelor’s or foreign equivalent degree in Business Administration, Economics, Finance, Accounting or related field; 2) Plus 7 years of financial management or related analysis experience within the investment banking industry; 3) At least 3 years of the required 7 years of experience must include research and valuation analysis, debt and equity offerings or financing, executing capital markets transactions, monitoring relevant transactions and market conditions, M & A, creating client-specific financial or valuation models, building and maintaining client relationships with corporate and financial sponsor clients within the telecommunications, wireless, restaurant and energy sectors; 4) Must have Series 7, 63 and 79 licenses."
The closest thing Cantor has to direct Wall Street experience was his seat on the House Financial Services Committee, held before his ascension to majority leader.
Young House members typically use that position as an entrée into the world of deep-pocketed donors who can help them rise quickly up the party leadership ladder. And that's exactly what Cantor did – he made it onto the GOP leadership team by his second term, and even as majority leader he seemed to be traveling up to New York during most congressional recesses.
Cantor, who regularly played CNBC along with Fox News on the TV in his Capitol office suite, never tried to hide his affinity for Wall Street, and it was that alliance during a populist political moment that ultimately helped contribute to his defeat.
Cantor acknowledged in his Wall Street Journal interview that he has "a lot to learn." He could probably take pointers from his wife, Diana Cantor, who is a veteran of the investment banking industry and has previously worked at Goldman Sachs.
"He likes challenges, and this is a challenging new opportunity," the Cantor associate said. "Eric is a young man, and he sees a long tenure in doing other things beyond politics."