EghtesadOnline: Donald Trump’s administration, already seen as the wealthiest in modern history, is about to get even richer when Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Gary Cohn is named the president-elect’s chief economic policy adviser.
Cohn, the firm’s chief operating officer and once considered the heir apparent to Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, was said to be Trump’s top selection for the post. He would walk away from Goldman Sachs with $266 million of stock and awards amassed during more than a quarter century at the investment bank, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
And he’s not even close to being among Trump’s wealthiest.
Already Trump and his announced nominees are worth more than $12 billion. That includes Wilbur Ross, the private equity titan with a $2.9 billion net worth, who has been nominated for commerce secretary and Betsy DeVos, for secretary of education. Her father-in-law Richard DeVos has a net worth of $4.8 billion, thanks mostly to his ownership of direct-seller Amway, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
News of Cohn’s selection immediately follows that of Andrew Puzder, the CEO of closely held Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. parent CKE Restaurants Inc. The opponent of a $15 minimum wage will be nominated for labor secretary. Linda McMahon, the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., shares a net worth of at least $1.35 billion with her husband, Vince. She’s slated to lead the Small Business Administration.
Trump’s $3 Billion
Jake Siewert, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment. Spokesmen for Trump didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Among the richest members of the administration is Trump himself. The president-elect has a net worth of $3 billion, according to a July assessment by Bloomberg.
“You’d have to go back to Herbert Hoover to see a cabinet that was this reliant on wealthy people,” said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian. “But the wealth has changed. Millionaires have become billionaires.”
The swelling net worth of Trump’s cabinet heads and advisers has triggered concerns that he’s distanced himself from promises to deliver policy fixes for the “forgotten man.”
“I want people that made a fortune because now they’re negotiating with you,” Trump said at a Thursday event in Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.”
Cohn, 56, would be the third and most senior Goldman Sachs alumnus to take a prominent role in the incoming administration despite the president-elect’s criticism of Wall Street and the bank in particular on the campaign trail. Cohn follows Goldman Sachs alumni Stephen Bannon, who will be Trump’s chief strategist, and Steven Mnuchin, who has been chosen to lead the Treasury Department.
Cohn’s takeaway from the bank is bolstered by an exit plan for executives who leave for government service, a payout that hinges on approval from the bank’s board. For Cohn, that would be about $58.5 million, mostly in stock awards he’d receive early. About a sixth of those are tied to hitting future financial targets. It also includes health premiums that he may forgo.
Putting billionaires in the cabinet is not without precedent. Penny Pritzker, an heiress of the Hyatt Hotels fortune, serves as President Barack Obama’s secretary of commerce, and has a net worth of $3.1 billion.