When he left NYU, Lew received what he describes as “a one-time severance payment upon my departure.” He wasn’t fired, usually the occasion for severance pay. He simply left and got paid for the act of leaving. Hey, that’s Jack Lew — he gets paid when he stays, and he gets paid when he goes.
He went to Citigroup, which NYU had made its primary private lender for student loans in exchange for a cut of those loans. (Coincidences happen to everyone, including Jack Lew.) At Citi, Lew established beyond a doubt his expertise at getting paid. In 2008, as the bank nearly blew up and laid off one-seventh of its employees, Lew ran its disastrous Alternative Investments unit — and got paid $1.1 million.
The bank had to be bailed out by the federal government, but it couldn’t stop paying Jack Lew. The journalist Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg has unearthed Lew’s contract at Citi. It said, reasonably enough, that he wouldn’t get his “guaranteed incentive and retention award” if he left the company. It made an exception, though, if Lew left to get “a full-time high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”