Interviews

John Allison on being considered for treasury secretary

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 29, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right. Say this about the quest to fill a Donald Trump Cabinet. The Treasury position is getting actually as much, if not more interesting than the secretary of state position.

Former banker John Allison built up the drama a little bit when he was among those considered. This is very interesting, what is going on here.
You just saw a picture there, I believe, of Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs. He is among those being considered.

But John is pretty interesting in his own right, because as the former CEO of BB&T, remember, it was one of those banking institutions that in the middle of the downdraft, the meltdown, they didn't really want any money, but the government kind of forced it on them. The loans are paid back and all of that, but it was a very tough period.

And then John, to add insult to injury, then said as they were cooking up Dodd-Frank, I don't like it, I have serious issues with it and about it. And he is still alive, with us right now to tell us about it.

John Allison, good to have you.

JOHN ALLISON, FORMER CEO, BB&T CORPORATION: Thank you, Neil. It's good to be you.

CAVUTO: When people noticed you were going to meet with Donald Trump, they said, OK, this changes a lot of things now.

And it showed that it was a wider berth. We are going to run through a show a lot of the Treasury possibilities here, but your name changed the dynamics a little bit, in that you were very critical of what has been done to police Wall Street, because you argued it went way too far, right?

ALLISON: I do, Neil.

I think that Dodd-Frank has been very destructive to the U.S. economy, not because of its impact on Wall Street, but its impact on Main Street. The practical effect has been a radical tightening of lending standards in community banks and has kept community banks from doing what I call venture capital small business lending, which is what I did that creates a lot of jobs and lots of new businesses over time.

And banks can't do that anymore. And Dodd-Frank is the reason for that.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, we were showing just some of those names, Jamie Dimon, of course. Obviously, you're in that mix. Steven Mnuchin is in that mix. Jeb Hensarling, the congressman, is in that mix. Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs in that mix. I think they might just include some of the doorman in the lobby of Trump Tower. I have no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But how does the process go? I don't want to give away or betray confidences here, but you go up, you get a chance to talk to Mr. Trump himself. What is the order of events?

ALLISON: Well, yes, I was solicited for this job. I had no idea, and frankly I'm really enjoying the lifestyle I have now.

But I thought it would be very interesting to talk to president-elect Trump, and it was. We had about an hour-and-a-half conversation. Vice president-elect Pence was there. Steve Bannon was there.

And we had a chance to talk about public policy; particularly about deregulation and what ought to be done from a tax policy perspective. And it was an interesting, interesting conversation. It was kind of like a job interview, would be best I would describe it.

CAVUTO: It is interesting. There's always this battle back and forth, John, and you and I have gotten into this in prior administrations, whether they seek out a Wall Street or a banking executive.

That is usually the traditional route these things go, or they go to manufacturing, someone like a John Snow from Conrail, the railroad type or, Paul O'Neill. I'm not talking about the Yankee player. I'm talking about the guy that served on Aluminum Company of America.

So, there's always a split read. Do we go that route, traditional manufacturing, banking? What? What's the benefit of having a banker in that job?

ALLISON: Well, I think the benefit is that somebody in the banking business has a good understanding of financial markets and how they work.

Of course, the Treasury operates in financial markets. But, you know, I think the most important thing is the person having, you know, a good set of public policy perspectives and a very active and thoughtful mind.

CAVUTO: What would yours be, then, John? What would yours be? There's been a big clamoring that a lot of people want to see not only business tax cuts, individual rate tax cut, and they want to see them enacted or at least proposed within the first 100 days because time is a wasting. Are you in that camp?

ALLISON: I'm for lower, flatter taxes, but I'm also for less government spending.

And I think that's a -- you need to combine the two together in the process, at least have a formula how that works out. But I really think the biggie is deregulation. I think you need to either eliminate or reform the Obamacare.

CAVUTO: Would you eliminate Dodd-Frank? Would you eliminate that?

ALLISON: Yes, I would definitely, if you could, eliminate Dodd-Frank, do something about the EPA.

I think those things alone would have a huge impact on economic growth.

CAVUTO: The reason why I mentioned the Wall Street thing, say what you will of him, and I have great respect for him as an individual, but Hank Paulson, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, many argue, missed the severity, or the approaching severity, along with many others, I should stress, of the financial meltdown, and didn't appreciate the magnitude of it until too late.

So that's the rap against Wall Streeters coming in to essentially police Wall Street, sort of like the fox guarding the henhouse. What do you say to that?

ALLISON: Well, I think there's some truth to that. I think there's some truth to that.

You know, this is not because I necessarily even want the job, but I think it would be very nice to have a true commercial banker in there that understood Main Street banking, which is very different than Wall Street banking.

And the Treasury side is pretty easy, when you have the lowest risk rated credit in the world. It is how those policies impact Main Street.

And I do -- to president-elect Trump's credit, I do think he seriously wants to figure out how to improve the quality of life and economic well- being of the average American through a much faster growth rate.

CAVUTO: But that includes cutting taxes right away, that if he waited, that would be bad?

ALLISON: Right. Right.

CAVUTO: OK.

John Allison, great seeing you. We will see what happens.

ALLISON: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: John Allison.


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