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The Curious Case of Peter Haller: Disclosure Matters

"Bart Naylor" "Financial policy"Did Goldman Sachs plant a mole with a fake name on the powerful House Oversight Committee?  The online publication ThinkProgress thinks something’s suspicious about a committee investigator named Peter Haller who changed his name. Public Citizen thinks the surname change itself is not necessarily purposeful deceit, but we find the lack of disclosure around Haller’s former employment with Goldman Sachs and the way the name change has muddied the waters troubling and warrants clarification.

While it’s  no secret that Goldman Sachs is a big swinging stick in Washington, D.C. —some call it  Government Sachs– and that that House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa attacks regulations he calls overbearing to banks such as  like Goldman Sachs, consider this report by Lee Fang of ThinkProgress, sponsored by the Center for American Progress.  Fang revealed that an Issa investigator named Peter Haller worked previously for Goldman Sachs, but under another name—Peter Simonyi.  At Goldman Sachs, Haller–then Simonyi—worked as a compliance officer, dealing with government agencies overseeing Goldman Sachs. At Issa’s congressional committee, Haller has worked specifically on issues affecting Goldman Sachs. For example, Haller’s name appeared on more than one committee letter as the contact for information about regulation considered onerous to Goldman Sachs.  In one, sent a few weeks ago on July 22 to bank regulators (including the heads of the Federal Reserve, FDIC, FCA, CFTC, FHFA, and Office of Comptroller) the committee demanded documents to justify new Dodd-Frank mandated rules on margin requirements for banks dealing in the multitrillion-dollar over-the-counter?? derivatives market, such as Goldman Sachs. Over Chairman Issa’s signature, the agencies were asked to contact Peter Haller.

“Has Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) turned the House oversight committee into a bank lobbying firm with the power to subpoena and pressure government regulators?” Fang asks. “ThinkProgress has found that a Goldman Sachs vice president changed his name, then later went to work for Issa to coordinate his effort to thwart regulations that affect Goldman Sachs’ bottom line.”

However, Public Citizen spoke with Haller (ne Simonyi) and here’s the simple explanation he had emailed to us: “My mother, whose maiden name is Theodora Maria Theresia haller-koi gr Haller (in the U.S., Dora Haller), married Imre Gabor Simonyi and took his name. Her father Alfred haller-koi gr Haller was killed in Budapest in 1944 by fascists as he attempted to prevent children from being conscripted into the military. Prior to his return to Hungary in 1944, he served under Regent Miklos Horthy, as a Hungarian diplomat stationed in England supporting the British in opposition to Germany. His last request was that if Theodora marries, her husband and children would carry on the Haller name. As my sister and I became adults, at some point discussions began that we should carry on the name of my mother’s family, which had lived in Transylvania, up until it was granted to Romania under the Treaty of Trianon after World War I. During a period of unemployment following my time at Goldman Sachs, I found the time to proceed with the name change, as did my sister. Please note my father and mother remain happily married to this day. My name change was public on the Brickfield Burchette Ritts & Stone website (BBRS.com) during my entire time with that firm. BBRS was my first employer following the name change.” Okay, maybe it’s not a simple explanation.

Issa press officer Becca Watkins added: “Information peddled by faux reporters, like those at the left-wing Center for American Progress, is almost always sensationalized and often factually inaccurate. The truth is often far from how they try to portray it.”

Public Citizen makes no claims about lie detection expertise. We note that changing one’s name involves about 50 minutes of filling out forms; many women do it upon marriage and don’t require a leave of absence from a job to complete the task.

What Public Citizen does claim: If Chairman Issa wants to serve America, he’d do better than hire alumni from the very firms that caused financial ruin. Chairman Issa must take every step to ensure that his investigations are unclouded by any appearance of conflict. The next time Chairman Issa sends a scolding letter to regulators and asks that they contact Peter Haller, he should disclose that Mr. Haller worked at Goldman Sachs.