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Gary Cohn - Far From His Lofty Perch at Goldman Sachs

June 2, 2017

[Photo:  Bloomberg in]


By Howard Haykin


Gary Cohn is no longer under the thumb of his old Goldman Sachs boss, Lloyd Blankfein, so he now has more of an opportunity to express his own points of view.


Which brings us to statements made Friday by Mr. Cohn on CNBC’s "Squawk on the Street" in response to questions about Donald Trump's Thursday afternoon announcement to pull the U.S. out of the global climate accord. Among the reasons cited for the move, the President said the Paris Agreement dramatically hurts the U.S. coal industry.


Cohn said there’s a place for coal in America’s energy mix from an economic perspective - with no mention awas made about whether carbon dioxide emissions from coal power plants and industrial factories contribute to global climate change. 


"At some point in the cycle, coal will be competitive again. We want to be in the coal business because we know there's a cyclical nature to all these commodity prices. And when coal is the feedstock of choice, we need to have that feedstock to be globally competitive."


That statement, something that Gary Cohn would never had made just 6 months ago, is notable in two respects: 


1.  For years, Cohn and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein were seemingly lockstep on all beliefs – both personal and professional. How, then, can one reconcile Cohn’s statement within the context of the statement made Thursday in Blankfein’s maiden tweet that denounced Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement? “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the US’s leadership position in the world. #ParisAgreement.” 


2.  On Wednesday, in her column, “Does Gary Cohn Have a Secret Plan to Escape Trump’s White House?” Vanity Fair columnist Bess Levin wrote the following: “Not only did Cohn publicly trash coal, which Trump wants to restore to glory, but he told reporters the president came to the G7 to ‘get smarter,’ a tacit admission that the leader of the free world perhaps wasn’t particularly up-to-snuff to start.” She then went on to surmise that Mr. Cohn is enduring his current pains as National Economic Council director because he may have a bigger prize in sight – Chair of the Federal Reserve. 


All in all, it would seem that Gary Cohn has come a long way from his lofty perch at Goldman Sachs. And, for the record, that sucking noise you hear these days is Gary Cohn pandering to Donald Trump’s every whim.  Regrettable.