Retailers take campaign against import tax to Trump

Retailers on Wednesday took their campaign to kill a proposed tax on imports to President Donald Trump, who may decide whether the controversial idea lives on in Washington’s tax-reform debate.

Executives from The Gap, Best Buy, AutoZone, JCPenney, Tractor Supply, Target, Walgreens and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores warned Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and economic adviser Gary Cohn about the proposal’s fallout on their finances. They rely on imported products and worry the tax, part of plans to create a “border adjustable” business tax, will send their tax bills skyward.

Trump is preparing a new tax-reform plan, and if it endorses the border-adjustment idea, it would breathe new life into a proposal that has come under heavy criticism in the Capitol. Conversely, Trump’s opposition could sink the plan and hobble House Republicans’ entire tax reform effort.

One source who was not in the meeting — it was only with the companies’ CEOs — but familiar with what was discussed said he was unsure where Trump now stands on the proposal. Trump has previously expressed skepticism, calling it overly complicated.

Those backing the plan considered it encouraging when Trump, speaking to reporters today, did not indicate what he thinks of the proposal.

The corporate chieftains were also slated to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Sen. Bob Corker, whose state of Tennessee is home to two of the companies.

Though much of the meeting focused on the border-adjustment plan, the source said, participants also discussed tax reform generally as well as infrastructure spending.
Mnuchin, bruised by hearings, heads for new battles

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, confirmed by the Senate Monday night in a partisan vote, is now facing an even tougher battle: overhauling government oversight of Wall Street and the banking system with little political capital to spend.

Mnuchin has almost no support among congressional Democrats, no government experience and a scarred reputation after facing withering criticism over his former bank’s treatment of foreclosure victims.

It’s a stark difference from the mandate enjoyed by his predecessors, who took the job in the midst of the financial crisis and its aftermath, when the Obama administration and Congress erected the system of tough banking rules that Mnuchin is now charged with dismantling.

President Donald Trump has given the onetime Goldman Sachs partner, hedge-fund manager and Hollywood producer just four months to consult with the government’s top regulators and report back on what measures should be taken to rewrite rules that the president says have stifled lending and economic growth.

On top of that, he’ll also need to focus on other controversial issues such as reforming the tax code and taking a more aggressive approach to trade policy.

“Mnuchin will want to hit the ground running with both Congress and regulators,” Capital Alpha Partners financial policy analyst Ian Katz said. “He’s had time to map out a strategy.”

Read more here
Trump reviews top White House staff after tumultuous start
Michael Flynn is under fire, but he’s not the only one about whom Trump is voicing his doubts. By JOSH DAWSEY and ALEX ISENSTADT

President Donald Trump, frustrated over his administration’s rocky start, is complaining to friends and allies about some of his most senior aides — leading to questions about whether he is mulling an early staff shakeup.

Trump has told several people that he is particularly displeased with national security adviser Michael Flynn over reports that he had top-secret discussions with Russian officials and lied about it. The president, who spent part of the weekend dealing with the Flynn controversy, has been alarmed by reports from top aides that they don’t trust Flynn. “He thinks he’s a problem,” said one person familiar with the president’s thinking. “I would be worried if I was General Flynn.”

Yet Trump’s concern goes beyond his embattled national security adviser, according to conversations with more than a dozen people who have spoken to Trump or his top aides. He has mused aloud about press secretary Sean Spicer, asking specific questions to confidants about how they think he’s doing behind the podium. During conversations with Spicer, the president has occasionally expressed unhappiness with how his press secretary is talking about some matters — sometimes pointing out even small things he’s doing that he doesn’t like.

Others who’ve talked with the president have begun to wonder about the future of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with senior White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned. Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser who is close with senior adviser Jared Kushner, has also been the subject of chatter.

For now, Priebus remains in control as chief of staff. He was heavily involved in adviser Stephen Miller’s preparation for appearances on Sunday morning talk shows, which drew praise from the president.

Read more here

The former Goldman Sachs executive running Trump's economic team is also playing a big role in the repeal of Obamacare

(The National Economic Council director, Gary Cohn, with President Donald Trump.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs chief operating officer who is now the chief economic adviser to President Donald Trump, is working on a variety of economic matters for the president, according to a new profile of his role, but also a big health-related issue: the repeal of Obamacare.

According to a profile of Cohn’s first few weeks in the White House from The New York Times’ Kate Kelly, Cohn not only has taken a large role in the new administration when it comes to matters such as job growth and regulation but has also been involved in the Trump administration’s plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare.

Cohn — a longtime Democrat — has had meetings with Republicans leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who is the head of the House Financial Services Committee, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about the replacement bill, according to the report.

During his career at Goldman Sachs, Cohn did not have a job related to healthcare; he instead worked in mortgages and commodity trading before becoming CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s right-hand man. Though Cohn lacks direct health-policy experience, the ACA does contain significant tax and economic elements to which Cohn could bring expertise.

The Times report said Cohn was also considering noneconomic statutory parts of the law as well — citing such provisions as one that allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26 and another regarding special enrollment periods that allow people to sign up for ACA-based exchange plans outside the two-month open-enrollment period.

Cohn is also working with a “healthcare specialist” on the Obamacare plan but did not specify the role of that person, the report said.

The insight gives a sense of the leadership involved in the Republican crafting of a replacement plan. While two plans have been introduced by GOP lawmakers during this legislative session, a complete, cohesive replacement has not yet been put forward by the GOP leadership.

The report makes no mention of newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who Trump during a press conference in January said was involved in the crafting of a replacement. Reports have refuted that characterization, saying the administration was keeping Price away from the replacement planning process so as not to have a conflict between his proposal and the administration’s work during his confirmation hearings.

Price himself would not confirm that he was working with the president on Obamacare during his confirmation testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

It is unclear what Price’s role will be in the replacement process now that he has been confirmed.

Both the House and the Senate approved a budget resolution in January that would allow Republicans to repeal large swaths of the ACA that affect the federal budget; however, numerous procedural steps would still be needed to repeal the law.

Read The New York Times’ full Cohn profile here »

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Trump is planning to roll back Obama's landmark bank regulations
The Wall Street Journal reports Friday morning that Donald Trump is planning an executive order that will lay out his intention to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill that Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. Spearheading the charge will be Gary Cohn, a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs trader and hedge fund manager. Read more
Trump is expected to sign executive orders that would repeal 2 huge Wall Street regulations

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump is set to sign two executive orders on Friday that would roll back two major Wall Street regulations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Trump will target the Dodd-Frank Act, which was written in the aftermath of the financial crisis to scale back risk-taking at the country’s largest financial institutions, as well as the fiduciary rule, which requires investment advisers to put client interests above their own when it comes to investment choices for retirement accounts, according to The Journal’s Michael Bender and Damian Paletta.

Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs COO who is now the director of the White House National Economic Council, told The Journal that the executive orders would not immediately repeal the two regulations. Instead, Trump’s orders would direct the labor secretary to rescind the fiduciary standard and the Treasury secretary to devise a plan to replace Dodd-Frank.

Cohn also told The Journal that the orders wouldn’t be the end of Trump’s deregulation efforts, saying the moves are a “table setter” for further action.

Trump has expressed a desire to deregulate the financial sector, a promise that has made bank stocks one of the best-performing sectors since the election. Trump’s administration, however, has been somewhat inconsistent on this.

The president has mentioned reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banks until the late 1990s. Trump’s Treasury secretary pick, Steven Mnuchin, reiterated that he is in favor of a “21st century” Glass-Steagall in testimony to Congress.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a press conference this week that Trump’s views on such an act are “consistent” but did not elaborate beyond that.

Cohn told The Journal that Glass-Steagall was not designed to benefit major banks, but keep the US competitive.

“It has nothing to do with JPMorgan,” Cohn said. “It has nothing to do with Citigroup. It has nothing to do with Bank of America. It has to do with being a player in a global market where we should, could and will have a dominant position as long as we don’t regulate ourselves out of that.”

The news will still come as a welcome sign for the biggest banks, who have had to increase the capital on their balance sheets and lessen their risk-taking since the passage of the law.

Cohn also told The Journal that the administration plans to direct the Treasury Department to review the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage lenders. Additionally, Cohn said that the executive action would not affect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created as a part of Dodd-Frank.

Check out the full Wall Street Journal article »

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Goldman Sachs just handed a promotion to one of its youngest ever partners

(Eric Lane.Goldman Sachs)
Goldman Sachs has just named Eric Lane as co-chairman of the firm’s partnership committee.

Lane coheads the investment-management division — a business that has been posting strong growth — with Tim O'Neill. Pablo Salame, cohead of the securities division at Goldman, is the other co-chairman.  

Lane joined the bank back in 1996, making partner in 2002 while still in his late 20s, making him one of the firm’s youngest ever partners. He was COO of the investment-management division before getting the call up to cohead the business in 2011. 

The partnership committee had previously been headed by Michael Sherwood, who retired from the firm at the end of 2016. Before Sherwood, Gary Cohn was the head. Cohn also left the firm in 2016 and has since joined the Trump administration.  While Sherwood and Cohn were both traders by background, Eric Schwartz, who headed the partnership committee for a period in the mid-noughties, came from the investment management division. 

The rank of Goldman Sachs partner is still one of the most sought after job titles on Wall Street. Those who get called up are given a comfortable raise and a solid chunk of the bonus pool. They’re also provided investment opportunities not available to other employees. Their day-to-day work lives don’t change drastically, though they’re expected to take on more responsibilities in the form of partner meetings and firmwide committees.

The bank named 84 partners in the last promotion round in 2016, including 10 from the investment management division. Currently, more than 400 of Goldman’s roughly 35,000 employees are partners.

The investment management business has been a key focus for Goldman Sachs over the last few years. The business finished 2016 with $1.38 trillion in assets under supervision, up $127 billion. Investment management generated $5.8 billion in revenues over the year, putting it narrowly behind Goldman Sachs’ famed investment banking division and the firm’s equities sales and trading business in terms of revenue contribution. 

Read the full memo below.

February 8, 2017

Eric S. Lane Named Co-Chairman of the Partnership Committee

We are pleased to announce that Eric Lane, global co-head of the Investment Management Division (IMD), will join Pablo Salame as co-chairman of the Partnership Committee.  Edith Cooper will continue to serve as vice chair of the committee.

Established in 1995, the mission of the Partnership Committee is to steward the firm’s culture as defined by our Business Principles and standards, preserve the spirit of partnership, promote and enhance the benefits of partnership, and advance the long-term success of Goldman Sachs through the cultivation of its current and future leaders.

Eric is a member of the Management Committee and the Firmwide Client and Business Standards Committee (CBSC).  He is also a member of the IMD CBSC and the Petershill Committee.  He assumed his current role as global co-head of IMD in 2011.  Eric joined Goldman Sachs in 1996.  He was named managing director in 2001 and partner in 2002. 

Please join us in congratulating Eric on his additional responsibilities and wishing him continued success.

Lloyd C. Blankfein

David M. Solomon

Harvey M. Schwartz

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Keep yourself motivated. You’ve got to be motivated, you’ve got to wake up every day and understand what that day is about; you’ve got to have personal goals - short term goals, intermediate goals, and long term goals. Be flexible in getting to those goals, but if you do not have goals, you will not achieve them.
—  Gary Cohn

DC has made comics fun again!

In 1984.

Blue Devil by Gary Cohn, Dan Mishkin, Paris Cullins and Pablo Marcos.

Yes, this comic series was fun and goofy and the equivalent of SIMON AND SIMON with just one Simon and a silly blue superhero suit. It was about the only DC title I read back in the day, though I’d eventually pick up Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL once that launched (and of course DARK KNIGHT). But those days before…

meet goldman sachs president gary cohn, the man who may put his leg on your desk, be disappointed by you, insult your ability to get into fine restaurants, build the world’s sharpest mortgage trading business, vacation with michael ovitz, “tear your face off,” trade you fine silver, get excellent at spinning class, give you the silent treatment, and then have a potential problem with taking over goldman sachs. it’s my bloomberg news story with christine harper, and we hope you like it.
Did the Fed Just Enter the Currency Wars? - Bloomberg Business

Policy makers pointed to the dollar’s rising value as “a persistent source of restraint” on exports in a surprisingly dovish set of meeting minutes published Wednesday. The greenback fell against a broad group of its peers.

Central bankers from Europe to Australia have engaged this year in bouts of rate-cutting oneupmanship that’ve left the U.S. as the only developed nation forecast to raise borrowing costs in 2015. The dollar climbed to its strongest in more than a decade as a result, prompting billionaire Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn to question whether the Fed can now increase rates without damaging the U.S. economy.