To understand how strategic consultancies work, one might look at the recent career of Jake Sullivan, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. As campaigning accelerates, Sullivan has claimed a spot in Biden’s inner circle. He is also a partner at one of the biggest and most opaque global consultancies.
After working as a strategist on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Sullivan joined the London and New York–based Macro Advisory Partners in January 2017. Run by former British spy chiefs, Macro Advisory Partners has about 30 full-time staff and reported $37 million in revenue last year.
Macro Advisory Partners uses Sullivan’s involvement as a selling point in offering “trusted counsel in a turbulent world,” with his face atop the roster on their website’s landing page. But when Sullivan publishes a magazine article about U.S. foreign policy or delivers university lectures, he almost always omits this job from his biography.
As a partner, his role runs deep. Though Macro Advisory Partners doesn’t disclose a client list, it would include mining companies in developing countries, sovereign wealth funds, and the rideshare company Uber.
Earlier this year, Sullivan spent several months representing Uber on the other side of the table from labor unions. He was trying to work out an alternative to California’s Assembly Bill 5 legislation, which extended new protections to gig workers, like minimum wage and unemployment. As the law went into effect in January, the $61 billion company negotiated with the SEIU and the Teamsters behind the scenes to create a carve-out that would have let Uber avoid giving benefits to contractors. Sullivan and Macro Advisory Partners declined to comment. A source familiar with the engagement told the Prospect that Sullivan’s work for Uber ended when talks failed to reach an agreement.
Maybe even more valuable to Macro Advisory Partners, Sullivan also provides forecasting services for corporations. For example, he used knowledge he acquired from negotiating the Iran deal in the Obama administration to help companies profit from the opening of the Iranian economy.
Information is power, and information about the future is exponential power. What corporate clients most want to know is what may happen in the next U.S. administration. “We’ve been building this team systematically,” said David Claydon, who served as the co-CEO of Macro Advisory Partners until June. “If we’re in a post-Trump world after November, businesses are going to be spending enormous amounts of money and markets are going to be transformed.”
The campaign told me that strategic consultants who are also Biden advisers don’t share insider information with clients. But even those in the corporate world are skeptical about such a firewall. “This is a step up from the military-industrial complex,” said a source familiar with Macro Advisory Partners’ work. “It’s the information-industrial complex.”
This spring, Jake Sullivan has been busy working as Biden’s policy gatekeeper. He manages the vice president’s working groups and has been directing hundreds of experts who develop Biden’s policy ideas.
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Some believe his work for corporations and foreign governments precludes him from shaping the policy platform of a Biden presidency. “Jake Sullivan’s work at Macro Advisory Partners should be disqualifying from service in a Democratic administration,” said an adviser to the Biden campaign, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution. “We don’t need a tool of hedge funds and mining companies in the White House.”
The campaign declined to answer detailed questions for this story. A spokesperson said Sullivan stopped taking a paycheck from Macro Advisory Partners after his appointment to the Biden team was announced, but wouldn’t specify further.
This week, days after the Prospect submitted questions to Sullivan and the campaign, Macro Advisory Partners removed Sullivan from its website.