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Wall Street Fixer Goes to Washington

NEW YORK ( TheStreet)--To many members of Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, or others who believe Washington has been hijacked by corporate interests, the career of Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides may not seem especially unusual.

As the most-trusted aide to then-CEO John Mack at Morgan Stanley (MS - Get Report) and Credit Suisse (CS - Get Report), Nides handled everything from renegotiating multimillion dollar pay guarantees to pushing for more generous maternity leave on behalf of the women who reported to him.

During the 2008 crisis, he helped convince the Securities and Exchange Commission to institute a temporary ban on short selling in the hope it would reverse a hair-raising decline in Morgan Stanley's share price, according to the book "Too Big To Fail." (Nides says the book exaggerated his role.)

Now Nides, 50, is effectively the chief operating officer of the U.S. State Department, reporting to Hillary Clinton, whose 2008 presidential campaign he helped finance. His biggest current project is managing the transition of U.S. troops out of Iraq, which Nides says is the largest such transition since the Marshall Plan in 1947. President Obama recently announced U.S. forces will be out of the country by the end of the year, as the State Department steps up its operations there.

The examples of high-powered careers combining government service and Wall Street money-making are bipartisan and far too many to count. Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report) drew negative attention in 2008 and 2009 for its extensive network of government connections, though that doesn't stop Goldman from picking off the government's best and brightest on a regular basis.

For his former Wall Street colleagues, however, Nides is a bit of an anomaly. Wall Street and Washington are far too cozy for many people, but Wall Street's top executives don't see it that way.

Paul Taubman, who oversees Morgan Stanley's investment banking business and was an early supporter of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, describes the relationship between Washington and Wall Street as "more polarized than it's ever been."

"Tom is helping to show everyone that you can move even in the current climate from business into government and not have the scarlet letter on you," Taubman says. "I think the fact that he was so warmly embraced in D.C. notwithstanding the fact that he spent a long time on Wall Street gives hope to a lot of people that ultimately talented people can come back and serve their country."
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