Goldman’s Gary Cohn to Meet With Trump’s Team This Weekend

  • A cabinet appointment is said to be unlikely as talks continue
  • Some Trump advisers are concerned about too many Goldman picks

Goldman Sachs’ Gary Cohn to Meet With Trump's Team

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn is scheduled to meet with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team this weekend amid growing speculation the longtime banker is seeking to leave Wall Street for a government job, according to people with knowledge of matter.

Since his initial meeting with Trump on Tuesday, a swirl of reports has linked Cohn’s name to a variety of senior posts, though one person with direct knowledge of the situation said the executive isn’t likely to get a cabinet seat. Possibilities include heading the Office of Management and Budget, or taking a position at the Treasury Department or Federal Reserve, another person with knowledge of the talks said. Fox Business Network’s Charles Gasparino added to the list of theories Thursday, saying Cohn could become energy secretary.

Gary Cohn

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

It’s also possible that Cohn, 56, won’t take any role, two people said. Members of Trump’s team are growing concerned that the administration is attracting too many Goldman Sachs alumni, contrary to the president-elect’s criticism of the firm on the campaign trail, they said.

Cohn’s departure from Goldman Sachs would create an opening atop one of Wall Street’s most powerful and prestigious banks, potentially elevating the next generation of its leadership. Around the firm, speculation has mounted in recent weeks over who may emerge as potential heirs to Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, who’s indicated he plans to stick around. Two vice chairmen seen as close associates, Mark Schwartz and Michael Sherwood, already have announced plans to retire.

Possible Successors

Cohn, the firm’s president and chief operating officer, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Among his most likely successors are Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz, 52, and David Solomon, 54, one of three leaders of investment banking, according to people with knowledge of the company’s politics. Their offices are doors down from Blankfein’s on the 41st-floor executive suite within the firm’s lower Manhattan headquarters.

Other candidates include two who’ve added responsibilities in recent years: Stephen Scherr, head of Goldman Sachs’s newly formed consumer bank, and Marty Chavez, 52, the chief information officer who has spearheaded several new initiatives, the people said.

If Blankfein and the board elevate a younger generation of senior executives, Eric Lane, co-head of the investment management division, would probably make the list, two of the people said. John Waldron, who joined Solomon and Richard Gnodde atop the investment bank in late 2014, may also get consideration, one of them said. Pablo Salame, 50, who helps lead the trading division, is also seen as a potential choice.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to round out his administration, revealing late Thursday that his choice for secretary of defense will be retired Marine Corps General James Mattis. More posts may be filled this weekend, as the president-elect has yet to announce his picks for more than a half-dozen cabinet positions, including secretary of state.

Tax Break

For Cohn, joining the government would allow him to sell his stake in Goldman Sachs without a hefty tax bill. He holds almost 562,000 shares directly and 311,000 in trusts and limited partnerships, according to a Nov. 11 filing. If he sold those to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, he’d be eligible to defer capital gains taxes, so long as he reinvests the proceeds in U.S. Treasuries or diversified funds.

Cohn’s savings would be about $11.7 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Other Goldman Sachs alumni already are heading to posts atop the government despite the president-elect’s fierce criticism of Wall Street -- often naming the firm. Trump’s closing ad in the campaign showed Blankfein’s face, as the candidate said a corrupt global power machine was robbing the U.S.

Earlier this week, Trump picked former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin to be his Treasury secretary. Another Goldman alumnus, Stephen Bannon, was named chief strategist. SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, who also worked at the investment bank, is said by analysts to be under consideration for a job as a top Treasury deputy.

Read more: Wall Street wins again as Trump chooses bankers and billionaires

Some Trump insiders acknowledged the optical challenge of filling the incoming administration not only with wealthy people but with bankers from Goldman Sachs in particular, because of its status as a populist punching bag. To a degree, it’s helpful that Mnuchin, Bannon and Scaramucci haven’t worked at the firm in years, some of the people said.

Positioned as Blankfein’s top lieutenant, the 6-foot-3 Cohn has long been seen as fiercely loyal to the CEO, serving as his eyes and ears and, sometimes, as his enforcer. For years, Cohn was known to walk the bank’s floors, meeting with business heads, as well as clients and investors, a person who works with him said in 2011.

While colleagues and clients have described his style as abrasive, he has increasingly served as a public emissary of the bank in recent years, speaking on television and at conferences about the global economy, financial markets and the state of Wall Street.

Cohn doesn’t boast the typical Wall Street pedigree of prep schools and Ivy League universities. Instead, he climbed the ranks with career bets bold enough to be featured in a book, and persevered through hard work.

Cleveland Childhood

A native of the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Cohn battled dyslexia and struggled to read throughout childhood, an experience that created an intense determination to succeed, according to a 2004 article published in Fortune magazine. On a day off from his job selling window frames and aluminum siding, he bluffed his way into his first Wall Street job as a trader on Comex, a New York commodities exchange, according to a commencement address he gave in 2009.

He joined a Goldman Sachs unit in 1990. By 1994 he was running Goldman’s metals business from London when he was invited to become partner. Two years later, Blankfein asked Cohn to run the global commodities business.

He later rose to chief operating officer of the fixed-income, currency and commodities unit, and in late 2003, he became co-head of the firm’s global securities businesses, which added responsibility for equities. Trading would propel Goldman Sachs to record Wall Street profits.

In June 2006, Goldman Sachs named Cohn and Jon Winkelried as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers, and the executives joined the company’s board. With Winkelried’s departure in 2009, Cohn is the only executive other than Blankfein, the chairman, to serve on the board.

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