Goldman’s Cohn Unlocks More Than $284 Million by Joining Trumpby and
Bank speeds delivery of compensation awards to ex-president
Gary Cohn also was paid $20 million for his work in 2016
Gary Cohn’s jump from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to Donald Trump’s administration is helping him unlock more than $284 million in pent up bonuses, stock holdings and other investments through the Wall Street bank.
To help Cohn avoid conflicts of interest as Trump’s top economic adviser, the bank is letting its former president immediately collect about $65 million in cash and stock tied to its future performance. That’s on top of roughly $220 million of Goldman equity he already held or was awaiting, as well as stakes in company-run investment funds, according to regulatory filings Tuesday. He must liquidate the holdings to take his new post.
Cohn is selling his Goldman stock as it trades near a record high on speculation Trump’s policies will be a boon for the bank. While Cohn could miss out on such brighter days, diversifying holdings will lower his risk for major losses if the firm instead stumbles in years ahead. That turned out to be an advantage for former Chief Executive Officer Henry Paulson, who sold off his stock in the bank to become U.S. Treasury Secretary in 2006 just before the global financial crisis.
“Fortuitously, all of this divestiture happens as stock in Goldman Sachs hovers near a multi-year high,” said Frank Glassner, CEO of Veritas Executive Compensation Consultants. But “it’s not like he’s jumping out of an airplane that’s headed down.” And being forced to quickly sell stakes in Goldman’s buyout and hedge funds probably means Cohn is “stepping out of that stuff at a discount,” he said.
To be sure, Cohn already was free to sell some of his stock holdings before his career change. But a large disposal would’ve been awkward, because investors may view it as a lack of confidence in the company’s future, Glassner said.
Cohn will also be able to defer significant taxes as he sells, assuming he plows proceeds into government securities or certain mutual funds. The extent of that benefit will become clearer when authorities release his financial disclosures for joining the government. He didn’t respond to a telephone message left at his home.
Cohn, 56, stepped down as Goldman’s president and chief operating officer last month after agreeing to lead Trump’s National Economic Council. He had started at the bank in 1990, becoming co-president in 2006, and then sole president. He was long seen as the heir apparent to CEO Lloyd Blankfein. For 2016, the bank awarded Cohn $20 million in pay.
A Tuesday filing shows the bank lifted restrictions or accelerated delivery on a total of about $123.7 million in stock and cash awards. That includes $47 million to settle outstanding awards he received each year since 2011 under the bank’s long-term incentive program. And he got an $18 million cash payment in exchange for outstanding performance shares.
The bank accelerated more than 96,000 restricted shares that were outstanding from earlier awards scheduled to be delivered over time. It also lifted restrictions on almost 100,000 shares that Cohn had already earned but was unable to sell.
He didn’t receive all of the restricted stock because Goldman Sachs withheld an unspecified portion of it for taxes, according to the filing.