As Gary Cohn Resigns, Goldman Sachs Loses its ‘Partner’ in Trump White House
And then there was one. Goldman Sachs, which had been called “Government Sachs” because of its high number of alumni staffing the White House under multiple presidents, lost one of its last friends in the Trump administration when Gary Cohn resigned Tuesday.
Gary Cohn’s departure as director of the White House National Economic Council leaves Goldman Sachs with just a single former executive advising Donald Trump: Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. That’s down from five Goldman Sachs alums who once simultaneously served Trump, including Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci and Dina Powell, as well as Cohn and Mnuchin.
Scaramucci was fired in July after just 10 days as the White House communications director, followed by Bannon’s ouster as Trump’s chief strategist just weeks later. Powell, who stepped down as deputy national security adviser earlier this year, is now reportedly considering going back to work at Goldman.
But Goldman Sachs, which on several occasions has involuntarily hosted protestors outside its New York headquarters demonstrating against the bank’s close ties to Trump, may have now lost its own line to the President’s ear.
As Goldman Sachs stock (GS) fell more than 2% following Cohn’s resignation Tuesday and in early trading Wednesday—somewhat more than the broader market—Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s CEO, expressed his sorrow at the departure of someone he has called his “partner,” and one to whom he felt “close.” “Gary Cohn deserves credit for serving his country in a first class way,” Blankfein tweeted. “I’m sure I join many others who are disappointed to see him leave.”
Cohn, once presumed to be Blankfein’s successor to lead Goldman Sachs, had also left a void behind at the bank. “Gary Cohn and I have been partners for more than 25 years, so I know better than perhaps anyone that he has the intelligence, commitment, and experience to be successful at any endeavor he undertakes,” Blankfein said in a statement in late 2016 following Cohn’s White House appointment. “We will miss Gary at Goldman Sachs, but I believe the American people and the President-Elect are fortunate that he has chosen to serve his country.”
Indeed, in addition to disagreeing with Trump’s decision to push ahead with broad import tariffs—a move that could trigger a trade war—Cohn reportedly felt underutilized in the White House, and was frustrated that the job wasn’t more intellectually stimulating. Cohn recently told Trump he was “working at like 20% of my capacity,” according to a report Axios, citing White House sources, but “if Trump could put him in a role where he would use 80% or 90% of his brain capacity, he’d stay.”
Cohn’s failure to dissuade Trump from implementing tariffs is also a blow to Goldman Sachs, which could lose business if a trade war ensues. It’s a sign that the bank may have lost influence in Washington. And while Cohn, as top economic adviser, frequently met with corporate CEOs and listened to their concerns as part of his job, Mnuchin may be somewhat less accessible in his Treasury role. After all, Goldman wants to avoid the optics of using its connections to inappropriately sway policy.
“It was a lot easier for me to call Jack Lew [the former Treasury secretary] than it is to call Steve Mnuchin,” Blankfein told Fortune in an interview last year. “It’s in my head to be careful about it and to limit it.”
Representatives for Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request for comment.
Cohn, for his part, hasn’t said what he will do next. “It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform,” Cohn said in a statement. “I am grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity and wish him and the Administration great success in the future.”
By early afternoon, Goldman Sachs stock was down slightly over 2% for the day, while the broader stock market had fallen less than 1%.