|11th Director of the National Economic Council|
January 20, 2017 – April 2, 2018
|Preceded by||Jeffrey Zients|
|Succeeded by||Larry Kudlow|
Gary David Cohn
August 27, 1960
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Education||American University (BS)|
Gary David Cohn (born August 27, 1960) is an American business leader who served as the 11th Director of the National Economic Council and chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2018. He managed the administration’s economic policy agenda. Before serving in the White House, Cohn was President and COO of Goldman Sachs, where he worked for more than 25 years. Cohn was appointed vice-chairman of IBM on January 5, 2021.
Following his White House service, Cohn became an advisor and venture capital investor for companies operating in the cybersecurity, blockchain infrastructure, and medical technology sectors. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors for Hoyos Integrity, a startup company employing biometric blockchain technology for secure communications and digital payments, and vice chairman of IBM. Cohn is also the chairman of the Advisory Board at Pallas Advisors, a national security strategic advisory firm based in Washington, D.C.
Early life and education
Gary Cohn was born to an Eastern European Jewish family, the son of Victor and Ellen Cohn, and was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. His father was an electrician who later became a real estate developer. Cohn was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, and attended four schools by the time he reached the sixth grade. Cohn's childhood experiences with dyslexia were a featured case study in David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Cohn studied at Gilmour Academy, and attended American University's Kogod School of Business between fall 1979 and spring 1982, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
Cohn started his career at the U.S. Steel home products division in Cleveland, Ohio. After a few months, he left U.S. Steel and became an options dealer in the New York Mercantile Exchange. He taught himself the basics of options by reading about it in the days between meeting the hiring manager and joining the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Cohn was recruited by Goldman Sachs in 1990 and became a partner at the firm in 1994. In 1996, he was named head of the commodities department, and in 2002, he was named the head of the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities (FICC) division. In 2003, he was named co-head of Equities, and in January 2004, Cohn was named the co-head of global securities businesses. He became President and Co-Chief Operating Officer, and director in June 2006. While at Goldman Sachs, Cohn was also a member of the firm's Board of Directors and Chairman of the Firmwide Client and Business Standards Committee.
In 2010, Cohn testified to Congress on the role of Goldman Sachs in the financial crisis of 2007–2008. Cohn testified: "During the two years of the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs lost $1.2 billion in its residential mortgage-related business. We did not 'bet against our clients', and the numbers underscore this fact."
National Economic Council Director
On January 20, 2017, Cohn took office as Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) in President Donald Trump's administration, a position which did not require Congressional confirmation. By February 11, 2017, The Wall Street Journal described Cohn as an "economic-policy powerhouse", and The New York Times called him Trump's "go-to figure on matters related to jobs, business, and growth". With the confirmation of Trump's December 12, 2016, nominee for Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, held back by Congressional hearings, Cohn filled in the "personnel vacuum" and pushed "ahead on taxes, infrastructure, financial regulation, and replacing health-care law". Had Cohn stayed at Goldman Sachs, some believed he would have become CEO when Lloyd Blankfein vacated that office. In addition to his $285 million Goldman Sachs severance package, Cohn also sold a stake in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest bank (as of 2017), then valued at $16 million.
Under the Trump administration, Cohn was cited by the press as a supporter of globalism, and was given nicknames such as "Globalist Gary" and "Carbon Tax Cohn". Along with Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Dina Powell, they were referred to by opponents as the "Wall Street-wing" of the Trump administration. He was stated as being at odds with the populist faction that was led by Steve Bannon, when Bannon was White House Chief Strategist.
Cohn led the Trump administration's efforts to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In a 2019 article in The Wall Street Journal, Cohn pointed to an increase of $6,000 in real disposable personal income per household, as well as the creation of seven million jobs, as evidence of the success of tax reform.
Cohn reportedly considered resigning from the National Economic Council after the 2017 Charlottesville rally and criticized the Trump administration's response to the rally, stating "I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning," white supremacists. In August 2020, Jim Scuitto published a book called The Madman Theory in which Cohn said in response to Donald Trump saying that there were very good people on both sides of the protests which included white supremacists, "Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK."
On March 6, 2018, Cohn announced his intention to resign; the announcement followed Trump's proposal to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum, and Trump's cancellation of a meeting with end-users of steel and aluminum that Cohn had arranged in an attempt to dissuade the president from the planned tariffs. He was replaced by Larry Kudlow on April 2.
In August 2018, Bob Woodward published a book containing the allegation that Cohn removed a draft letter from President Trump's desk, so the President would not sign it. The letter would have canceled a trade agreement with South Korea, in addition to unilateral withdrawals from the Canadian and Mexican trade agreements.
Following his departure from the White House, Cohn became an advisor and venture capital investor for companies in the cybersecurity, blockchain, and digital payments sectors. He currently serves on the Board of Spring Labs, a startup using blockchain technology to share consumer credit data, and Hoyos Integrity, a company employing biometric blockchain technology for secure communications and mobile payments. Cohn is also a key advisor for Machine Zone and Abryx, a biomaterial science company.
At Hoyos Integrity, Cohn is deeply involved in the strategy and rollout of a next-generation secure mobile phone aimed at government and corporate customers. The company is also planning to launch a digital wallet — which employs more sophisticated biometrics — that consumers can use to make payments using a wide range of monetary assets, including bitcoin. The wallet will also be insured up to $1 million if hacked and will adhere to strict Know Your Client (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations. The underlying technology of Hoyos' digital wallet and FIPS was born out of military-grade digital secure vault technologies. Unlike traditional digital wallets, it is designed to provide significant privacy protections to consumers as it does not mine their data, performs unique biometrics-based identity authentication on every transaction, and holds any digital fiat or cryptocurrency. The Hoyos wallet platform underwent stringent testing by U.S. government security contractors and in an international hackathon contest, and was not breached.
Harvard Kennedy School
In 2019, Cohn served as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School where he taught a seminar alongside former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp on economic, demographic, and national security policy. Cohn and Heitkamp focused on structural economic and demographic issues. Spring 2019 Fellows at the Institute included Mayor Andrew Gillum, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
While at Harvard, Cohn was the lead sponsor for the Road to 2092: Save Social Security, the first policy hackathon organized by the Harvard Institute of Politics. The competition featured over 250 students from 28 universities; the winning team presented their policy brief at the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and was also featured on MSNBC.
Cohn and his wife are founding board members of the New York University Child Study Center. The couple funded the Pevaroff Cohn Professorship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine in 1999. He financed the Gary D. Cohn Endowed Goldman Sachs Chair in Finance and the Gary D. Cohn Scholarship both at American University, his alma mater. In 2015 Cohn financed the Gary D. Cohn and Brother Robert LaVelle Endowed Scholarship in honor of Brother Robert LaVelle, who was retiring after 35 years as head of Gilmour Academy, where Cohn attended high school.
In 2009, the Hillel International building at Kent State University was named the Cohn Jewish Student Center in recognition of a gift from Cohn and his wife. It is the first Hillel building built directly on the campus of a state university.
Cohn has been a supporter of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, and has supported the nonprofit youth development organization Harlem RBI (now called DREAM) since 2011. At that time, Harlem RBI was given the chance to build its own charter school. Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees and Harlem RBI director Rich Berlin asked Cohn if he could help them raise the capital they needed to build the school. On June 17, 2013, Cohn was honored at the annual "Bids for Kids" gala in order to raise funds for Harlem RBI. Cohn said in an interview that Harlem RBI is a project that is "very near and dear to his heart". In 2015, Cohn won $360,000 for Harlem RBI as winner of Bloomberg's Brackets for a Cause competition.
Cohn is active in various charitable causes related to education and healthcare. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health and on the Board of Overseers of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
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- David and Goliath
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With crucial posts still vacant, Gary Cohn, a long-time Goldman Sachs executive, has become the president's go-to figure on matters related to jobs, business, and growth.
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- Emily Smith and Carlos Greer (August 8, 2016). "Bethenny hurls her drink when she can't see Coldplay". Page Six.
- Cleveland Jewish News: "Sanford Pevaroff" August 2, 2010
- Cleveland Jewish News: "Pevaroffs celebrate 60th wedding anniversary" January 29, 2010
- Professor Jeffrey Harris Becomes First Gary D. Cohn Goldman Sachs Chair
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- Gilmour Academy received $750,000 donation for scholarships
- "Hillel at Kent State Dedicates New Cohn Jewish Student Center". Hillel International. September 15, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- Kent State University News: "Dedication of the New Cohn Jewish Student Center" October 12, 2009
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- Board of Overseers
- "2010 Hospital for Joint Diseases' Founders Gala Raises over $1.7 Million". NYU School of Medicine. November 10, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
| Director of the National Economic Council