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2016-12-09 22:03:12
Goldman Sachs No. 2 Seen as a Top Economic Adviser to Trump

The longtime second-in-command at Goldman Sachs, Gary D. Cohn, will help guide President-elect Donald J. Trump’s economic policy along with a former Goldman partner, Steven Mnuchin, who has been nominated for Treasury secretary.

Mr. Cohn, the Wall Street bank’s president, is expected to be named director of Mr. Trump’s National Economic Council, which oversees economic policy in the White House.

The position was established by President Bill Clinton and given to Goldman’s co-chairman at the time, Robert E. Rubin. Mr. Rubin’s fellow co-chairman, Stephen Friedman, later held the position under George W. Bush. At other times, the job has been in the hands of people trained as economists, which Mr. Cohn is not.

Mr. Cohn, who is 56, rose up through the ranks of Goldman as a trader and developed a reputation for a gruff, no-nonsense demeanor. In recent years, he has been in line to take over the firm from the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and his departure will open the door to a new crop of candidates looking to succeed Mr. Blankfein.

He has been registered as a Democrat, but Mr. Cohn has donated to both political parties. He has given tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats and Democratic campaign committees.

Yet more important, he has become friends with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser to the president-elect.

The decision follows an extended courtship in which the Goldman executive visited with Mr. Trump three times, most recently on Thursday.

And the ascendance of Mr. Cohn comes not long after attacks by Mr. Trump on the financial elite — and Goldman Sachs in particular — during his presidential campaign. Mr. Trump criticized both Hillary Clinton and one of his primary campaign opponents, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, for their ties to the investment bank.

Mr. Trump’s apparent enthusiasm for bashing the firm eventually extended to his supporters, some of whom heckled Mr. Cruz’s wife out of the Republican National Convention with chants of “Goldman Sachs.”

Since his election, however, Mr. Trump has stocked his future cabinet with a number of financiers, including Mr. Mnuchin, a former Goldman trader, as his pick for Treasury secretary and Stephen K. Bannon, a former Goldman employee who is now Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.

Unlike the other two, Mr. Cohn is a longtime Goldman employee who was helping to guide the firm before and during the financial crisis.

Leaving Wall Street to take a top government post could provide a huge financial gain for Mr. Cohn.

He would probably have to sell his Goldman holdings to avoid conflicts of interest with his new role, which would normally generate a big tax bill immediately. But tax regulations allow executive branch appointees to roll the proceeds of such a sale into Treasury securities and defer capital gains taxes.

Mr. Cohn owned 872,712 shares in Goldman as of Nov. 14, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence. As of Friday afternoon’s stock price, that stake was worth about $209 million.

Goldman Sachs has already become a beneficiary of a Trump administration. Mr. Trump has promised to push back on financial regulations passed since the financial crisis, which have come down particularly hard on Goldman. Since the election, shares of banks and other financial institutions have risen sharply; Goldman’s is up 34 percent.

On Friday, however, Goldman’s shares were down about 0.5 percent.

Mr. Cohn grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, the son of a real estate developer and electrical contractor. He later attended Gilmour Academy, a private school in the area, and then American University, though he has often spoken of his struggles with dyslexia.

After a brief stint at U.S. Steel in his home state — to appease his father, Mr. Cohn said in a speech — he turned to the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983, where he eventually turned to trading silver. He was recruited to Goldman seven years later and became a fast-rising star at the investment bank, following the ascent of his friend, Mr. Blankfein.

In 1994, Mr. Cohn joined the vaunted partnership at Goldman, in a class that included a number of financial luminaries: Eric M. Mindich, now a hedge fund mogul; J. Michael Evans, formerly a top Goldman executive in China who is now at the Alibaba Group; and Mr. Mnuchin himself.

By 2006, Mr. Cohn had become co-president and co-chief operating officer of the firm when his friend, Mr. Blankfein, took the helm as chief executive. He took sole ownership of the No. 2 spot in 2009 and solidified his role as the heir apparent.

Over his career, the 6-foot-3 Mr. Cohn has been known for a brusque and intimidating presence, reportedly looming over traders at their desks. But he has softened that approach over the years as he became more of a financial diplomat, flying to Washington, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and other centers of power.

He has also made himself a fixture in the New York social scene, including an apartment on Park Avenue and donations to institutions like New York University’s medical school.