Gary D. Cohn is an American investment banker, and former director of the ‘US National Economic Council,’ as well as former chief economic advisor to President Trump. He is a well-known economist and philanthropist. Born and raised in a middle-class Eastern European Jewish family of Ohio, he suffered from dyslexia during childhood. With great efforts, he earned a degree in ‘Bachelor of Science in Business Administration’ from the ‘American University.’ Initially he worked for ‘United States Steel,’ then moved on to ‘New York Mercantile Exchange.’ In 1990, he started his career in finance with ‘The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.’ and worked for their New York and London offices. He contributed mainly to their securities division, in the capacity of ‘Global Co-head of the Equities and Fixed Income,’ ‘Co-head of Global securities Business,’ and ‘President & COO’ of the firm. In January 2017, he was appointed as the ‘11th Director of the National Economic Council,’ and economic advisor to President Trump. He worked on tax reforms and job creation. He resigned from the post in March 2018, and took up visiting fellow post at ‘Harvard Kennedy Institute.’ He and his wife Lisa actively participate in philanthropic events.
Childhood & Early Life
Cohn was born on August 27, 1960, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Victor and Ellen Cohn. He grew up in an Eastern European Jewish family in Shaker Heights, Ohio. His father was an electrician and later, dealt in real estate development. His grandfather emigrated from Poland at 13, and then started his own business as an electrician (later, Cohn worked there).
Cohn was a dyslexic child and had to repeatedly change schools, thus he was not expected to find much success in academic field. His teacher thought that the most he could do was to become a truck driver.
Cohn was enrolled in a Catholic school, ‘Gilmour Academy,’ and with hard work he later joined ‘American University’ (1979). He studied at the ‘Kogod School of Business’ at the American University. In 1982 he graduated with a degree of ‘Bachelor of Science in Business Administration,’ and majored in finance, real estate and urban development. He had to take tremendous efforts on reading and writing to achieve the degree.
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Cohn didn’t get a job immediately after graduation, but he had a passion for financial markets. He got a job of selling aluminum siding and window frames with ‘United Stainless Steel,’ at Akron, Ohio. Once, while visiting Long Island on a work trip, he went to Wall Street, and managed to get an interview at a Wall Street brokerage firm. He studied ‘Options,’ learnt everything about it and passed the interview. He was appointed as a runner in the trading floor in ‘New York Mercantile Exchange.’
In 1990, Cohn got a job at ‘The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.’ He first worked in the firm’s J. Aron Commodities trading division. During his 26 year long career at this firm, he carried out the responsibilities of a number of key positions in New York as well as London offices. In 1996, he was head of the ‘Currency and Commodities division’; in 2000, he was in charge of firm’s ‘mortgage market’ activity; and in 2002, he was head of the ‘Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities (FICC)’ division.
Cohn was the Global co-head of the equities at the Goldman Sachs, in 2003 and co-head of ‘global securities businesses’ in 2004. From 2006 to 2016 he was President and Chief Operating Officer and also, member of the firm’s Board of Directors.
Cohn also worked in the capacity of the Director of the ‘London Metals Exchange,’ and as a member on the Board of Directors of the ‘New York Mercantile Exchange.’
In late 2016, Cohn left Goldman Sachs. (When he left the firm, he received $285 million in company stocks and cash). In January 2017, he took up the post as the ‘Director of the National Economic Council.’ This was a role of an advisor to President Trump on domestic and global economic policies.
In the beginning, Cohn worked on the Tax Reforms, bringing changes to the personal and corporate tax structure. He focused on implementation of President’s objectives, which were economic growth and job creation. His aim was to create a reduction for the corporates and also bring a tax relief for the middle and low income class groups. With his efforts, the ‘Tax Cut and Jobs Act’ was passed in 2017. He was also given the responsibility of developing infrastructure spending.
Cohn, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Dina Powell together were an informal group of advisors to the President (They were known as the ‘Wall Street Wing). But their policies clashed with those of Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and his deputy, (and Trump’s chief speechwriter) Stephen Miller. The clashes created pressure for Cohn to resign. When President Trump proposed to levy import tariffs on steel and aluminum, Cohn tried to advise him against it. He arranged a meeting of the President with the end-users of steel and aluminum, but the President cancelled the meeting. Cohn resigned in March 2018.
After his resignation from the post of President’s economic advisor, Cohn took up Visiting Fellow position at the ‘Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.’
Family & Personal Life
Cohn is married to Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn, who is an artist. The couple has three daughters – Chloe, Melanie and Chelsea. The family resides in New York.
Cohn and his wife are involved in several philanthropic activities. ‘The Child Study Center’ of New York University was co-founded by Cohn and his wife. He provided funds for the ‘Gary D. Cohn Endowed Research Professorship in Finance’ at the ‘American University.’
With donations from Cohn and his wife, the ‘Kent State University’s’ ‘Hillel International’ building was named ‘Cohn Jewish Student Center’ in 2009. He helped ‘Harlem RBI’ (a non-profit youth development organization), to raise funds to build a charter school. He also helps in revival of baseball in inner cities. Cohn is a trusty at the ‘American University,’ and ‘Gilmour Academy.’