Brian Deese, an executive at BlackRock Inc. and former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, has been chosen by President-elect Joe Biden to lead his National Economic Council, people familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Deese, who joined BlackRock in 2017 to oversee its sustainable investment strategies, was a senior adviser to Mr. Obama on climate, conservation and energy, and also served as deputy director of the NEC.
Progressive groups have been critical of Mr. Deese, seeing his role at BlackRock as evidence that he was willing to trade his Obama ties for a big paycheck. They're also unimpressed by his record on climate and have pointed to work he did during the Obama years on deficit reduction as a warning sign that he may not support the significant stimulus spending the left is pushing.
"Any BlackRock executives that move into the Biden administration need to prove that they are willing to take bold, proactive action to stop climate change," said Moira Birss, climate and finance director at Amazon Watch, a non-profit environmental group that has criticized BlackRock's track record on sustainability. "This includes regulating their friends and former colleagues on Wall Street in order to rapidly and justly decarbonize the economy and the financial system."
Mr. Deese worked on Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign and joined his administration in 2009. He was part of the task force charged with restructuring the automobile industry and later became deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
His selection adds to the economic team Mr. Biden announced Monday, including Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary, Neera Tanden for director of OMB and Cecilia Rouse to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.
One progressive group, the Revolving Door Project, pointed to testimony from Mr. Deese's 2013 confirmation hearing for his role at OMB as evidence that he supports "austerity." Mr. Deese said then that he'd work toward a "comprehensive deficit reduction agreement" that would include "entitlement reform and tax reform," and suggested that means-testing Medicare would be one way to make some cuts.
But there's also evidence of Mr. Deese opposing austerity measures. In a 2015 White House blog post, Mr. Deese wrote that economic growth during the Obama years "shows that we don't have to choose between stronger growth and asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share; and that we can finally discard mindless austerity and turn our focus toward further accelerating shared growth."