Gary Cohn (investment banker)
|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 economist and investment banker who served as the 11th Director of the National Economic Council and was the chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2018. He was the president and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2017. Cohn is a registered Democrat, but has donated extensively to Republican politicians as well. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Cohn was one of the most influential voices in the Trump administration. On March 6, 2018, it was reported that Cohn planned to resign from his position in the coming weeks. He left the White House on April 2, 2018, after his replacement, Larry Kudlow, took up his post.
Following his departure from the White House, Cohn became a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. He teaches alongside Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on how to confront the nation's most pressing policy issues.
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 studied at Gilmour Academy, and attended American University's Kogod School of Business between Fall 1979 and Spring 1982, where he majored in Finance, Real Estate, and Urban Development, and graduated on 16 May 1982 with 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. 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.
In late 2009, Cohn led a delegation from Goldman Sachs to meetings with the government of Greece, which included proposals (that were not adopted) to push debt due dates far into the future, "much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards". Goldman Sachs had been scrutinized for creating or pitching products used by Greece to "obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels".
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."
Cohn's salary at Goldman Sachs was $22 million in 2014. He received $21 million in 2015. He received a severance package worth around $285 million – mostly in stock – from Goldman Sachs upon leaving to join the administration of Donald Trump. In the administration, he took a salary of $30,000, considerably less than nearly every other high-ranking administration official.
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 has been cited by the press as a supporter of globalism, and has been given nicknames such as "Globalist Gary" and "Carbon Tax Cohn". Along with Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Dina Powell, they have been 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 withstood pressure to resign from his job following President Trump's speech blaming both sides, following white supremacist violence at the 2017 Charlottesville rally (Cohn was standing right behind President Trump as Trump made his controversial statement). Cohn did not resign at that time.
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.
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 Research Professorship in Finance at American University, his alma mater.
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".
Cohn is a member of the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
Harvard Kennedy School
Following his departure from the White House, Cohn became a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. He teaches alongside US Senator Heidi Heitkamp on how to confront the nation's most pressing policy issues. Spring 2019 Fellows at the Institute include Mayor Andrew Gillum, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
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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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- 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
- "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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| Director of the National Economic Council