Two days after democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, asking if Goldman effectively runs the country through its extensive alumni links at the Trump administration, and requesting details on “lobbying” activities in the bank related to review of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Obama-era fiduciary rule on financial advice, as well as asking for any communication between the bank’s employees and Cohn, Mnuchin, nominee for the SEC chair Jay Clayton and chief strategist Steve Bannon, Bloomberg reported overnight that yet another Goldman banker, Jim Donovan, was under consideration for the No. 2 job at the Treasury Department, however it appears he has “got one big thing working against him.”
That “thing” is the overdue realization by the new president that his cabinet openly appears to have been created and staffed by populism arch nemesis #1, Goldman Sachs. Besides Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, former Goldman officials working for the new administration include former president Gary Cohn, now director of the National Economic Council; Stephen Bannon, the chief White House strategist; and Dina Powell, formerly the bank’s head of philanthropic investment, who’s an assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives.
So just like Goldman would staff every central bank’s core positions prior to Trump, after the US election, the world’s most influential investment bank has shifted all of its attention on just one person, and he is finally starting to realize that that may not be a good thing.
Too many “Goldman guys” already have high-up positions in the Trump administration, the person said, and that could knock Donovan down to one of the undersecretary positions — possibly undersecretary of the Treasury for domestic finance.
The presence of several former Goldman officials at the highest reaches of the administration runs counter to the president’s regular attacks on Wall Street firms during the campaign. “Donald Trump’s Argument for America,” a two-minute advertisement that ran in prime-time days before the election, featured Goldman Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein in an segment about corporate chieftains pocketing the wealth of American workers.
Having reneged on this core populist angle of his campaign, and opening himself up to democratic attacks over the extensive presence of Goldman bankers in his team, “now the White House seems sensitive to the issue and is taking it into consideration as it attempts to fill remaining top posts.”
Donovan, whose time at Goldman overlapped with Mnuchin, most recently was a managing director at the bank’s private wealth management division and has been at Goldman since 1993. He would be subject to Senate confirmation. At Treasury, Donovan “would join the effort to execute the extensive economic policy agenda that the new administration has promised. Trump has vowed to cut regulations and taxes with the goal of unlocking economic growth. The Treasury Department will also be responsible for navigating economic diplomacy for a White House not shy about jawboning currencies.”
Donovan’s name emerged in January as a front-runner for undersecretary of domestic finance, a key Treasury position that helps oversee the $13.8 trillion market for Treasuries.
Meanwhile, underscoring the coverage Trump’s Goldman ties are getting in the press, on Saturday Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs President and COO who runs economic policy inside the White House and who is now in charge of drafting Trump’s “phenomenal” tax plan, got the star treatment when both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times published two very similar, laudatory pieces detailing Cohn’s rise. Some of the highlights via Axios:
- WSJ: “At Donald Trump’s first meeting with Gary Cohn in late November, he appeared so impressed with the then-president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that he joked about offering him the post of Treasury secretary, said a person who recalled the moment. Sitting nearby was the odds-on favorite for the job, Steven Mnuchin, who got the nod.”
- NYT: “People with knowledge of his new role said that Mr. Cohn, a Democrat, is summoned to the Oval Office for impromptu meetings with the president up to five times a day — and that he reaches out to the president on other occasions. Mr. Trump, said one of these people, is oriented toward the bottom line when it comes to shaping policy, often asking Mr. Cohn, “What do you want to do?”
- NYT: “Mr. Cohn collaborates frequently with Mr. Kushner, who is now a senior adviser to Mr. Trump. Along with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, Mr. Cohn recently helped persuade the president not to pursue an executive order that would have rolled back rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, left, with COO Gary Cohn, in April 2010
awaiting a speech on financial regulation by then-President Barack Obama
The best part: Goldman’s response to Elizabeth Warren:
On Friday, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) sent a letter to Mr. Blankfein asking whether Goldman officials have been in contact with Mr. Cohn or other Goldman alumni in the White House and whether the firm expects to benefit from changes to financial regulation Mr. Cohn is pushing through executive orders.
A spokesman for Goldman said it had no involvement in drafting executive orders. In an interview before the executive orders were signed, Mr. Cohn said the administration’s goal of deregulating financial markets “has nothing to do with Goldman Sachs” but was focused on maintaining the nation’s dominant position in global banking.
And if you believe that, the Trump administration, pardon, Goldman Sachs has a nice, refurbished, 10-year-old CDO squared in pristine shape to sell you.