NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump on Monday said he would appoint Gary Cohn, a longtime Goldman Sachs executive, to lead the powerful National Economic Council, giving the Wall Street insider a key job in developing the new administration's economic policy.
The position, which does not require Senate confirmation, can be as influential as the treasury secretary or other Cabinet posts, and Trump said in a statement that Cohn would be his “top economic adviser.”
“Gary Cohn is going to put his talents as a highly successful businessman to work for the American people,” Trump said in the statement. “He will help craft economic policies that will grow wages for our workers, stop the exodus of jobs overseas and create many great new opportunities for Americans who have been struggling.”
In Cohn, Trump once again picked a veteran of Goldman Sachs, which has seen its stock jump about 30 percent since the election. Trump has said he would nominate Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of the bank, to be treasury secretary, and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked on mergers and acquisition deals for Goldman Sachs. Hedge fund manger Anthony Scaramucci began his career at the New York bank and has emerged as one of Trump’s closest advisers on his presidential transition.
During more than 25 years as Goldman Sachs, Cohn developed a reputation for a no-holds-barred style. Cohn, the president and chief operating officer of the bank, was poised to become CEO when its current leader, Lloyd Blankfein, retired.
“I share President-elect Trump’s vision of making sure every American worker has a secure place in a thriving economy, and we will be completely committed to building a nation of strength, growth and prosperity,” Cohn said.
While a registered Democrat, Cohn had been a major donor to both parties and has struck a moderate tone on prominent issues such as corporate tax inversion and deregulation.
At a conference sponsored by the New York Times last year, he argued for keeping U.S. businesses onshore by creating a “really competitive environment.” He also appeared to take a softer stance on Trump’s campaign promises to roll back the sweeping financial reforms known as the Dodd-Frank Act that were instituted under Obama and reinstate a Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking.
Cohn's rise is considered a remarkable tale on Wall Street. The former aluminum siding salesman struggled with dyslexia in high school and has said he was written off by his teachers. He talked his way into a Wall Street job after sharing a cab to LaGuardia Airport with a commodities trader.
“The one trait in a lot of dyslexic people I know is that by the time we got out of college, our ability to deal with failure was very highly developed,” Cohn told author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “David and Goliath.” “And so we look at most situations and see much more of the upside than the downside. It doesn’t faze us. I’ve thought about it many times, I really have, because it defined who I am. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dyslexia. I never would have taken that first chance.”
Cohn has thousands of shares of Goldman Sachs stock, currently worth more than $200 million, that he will likely have to sell before taking his position in the Trump administration.