A few days ago, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein not-so-subtly accusing the firm of using its former president and current National Economic Council head Gary Cohn as a not-so-secret agent inside the Trump White House.
Even for Elizabeth Warren, the tone of the letter is pretty galling:
Dear Mr. Blankfein,
We are writing today regarding the relationship between Goldman, Sachs & Co. ("Goldman Sachs") and Mr. Gary Cohn, became the Director of President Trump's National Economic Council ("NEC") in January 201 7.1 We are concerned that Mr. Cohn- who received an the extraordinary $284 million handout from Goldman Sachs as he left his 25-year career with the firm-will be unable to develop economic policies that will help middle-class families, and will instead favor Wall Street over Main Street. We hope you can provide us with information that will assuage our concerns.
The letter goes on to describe what the NEC does (Lloyd must of really appreciated that) and then reminds him that Gary worked at Goldman for a long time and took home a lot of company stock on his last day at the office. After that, Warren and Baldwin get really passive-aggressive.
The executive orders released by President Trump on Friday last week raise our concerns about the degree to which Mr. Cohn's advice to President Trump is good for Wall Street, but bad for Americans. Mr. Trump released two executive orders with Mr. Cohn at his side, both from the Wall Street wish list: one promised to roll back Dodd-Frank rules put in place after the 2008 Financial Crisis, and another put in place a process that could eliminate new requirements that investment advisers act in their clients' best interests. Mr. Cohn then appeared as "the face" of these efforts, stating that he planned to "attack all aspects of Dodd Frank."
Goldman Sachs would be a major beneficiary of these efforts to deregulate the financial industry; the company's stock rose by almost 5%, increasing your company's market capitalization by $4.1 billion the day of President Trump's announcement.
While positing that Gary Cohn is the face of an executive order signed by the most attention-hungry President in American history is an excellent attempt at trolling Trump and potentially getting Gary in trouble at work, the overarching logic here is borderline nonsense. Of course Goldman Sachs is a major beneficiary of a deregulated financial industry, it's the most powerful firm in the financial industry. Gary doesn't need to help Goldman directly from his new office, Goldman is a juggernaut. It would be like 54-year-old Michael Jordan offering to suit up for the Golden State Warriors to help them make the playoffs. They're good, bro.
In fact, let's take a quick look at Goldman's stock price since the election with a little marker on the day Gary joined the administration:
Kind of hard to suss out a "Cohn Surge" there, huh?
Sure, Planet Trump is populated by more than a few former Goldmanites who have been key architects of his economic policy, but Trump's reign has not been too heavy on policy and the notion that guys like Steves Bannon and Mnuchin are playing out some ancient cultish blood oath plot to make Goldman even richer is utterly bananas.
But Warren and Baldwin are clearly certain that this Goldman conspiracy is real because their letter goes on to pose a series of involved "questions" regarding what exactly Goldman knows about the Trump agenda, when they knew it and who told them. Here is, perhaps, the highlight:
2. Mr. Trump named Mr. Cohn as his chief economic adviser on December 12, 2016. Did individuals employed by Goldman Sachs have any communications with Mr. Cohn related to the Trump Administration executive orders or economic policies during the presidential transition? If so, please provide us with information on who these individuals were, the date, times, and nature of these communications, and any documents related to these communications.
Yeah, okay, Lloyd will get right on that.
Gary Cohn left Goldman because he would never get Lloyd's job, and his departure left a vacuum that Lloyd filled by executing a not-insignificant restructuring of his most senior staff. Aside from being a little busy worrying about itself - which, love it or hate it, is Goldman Sachs' default position - it makes little to no sense that Goldman would risk the scandal of being in improper contact with the very guy whom everyone is waiting for them to have improper contact.
Goldman Sachs might be a lot of things, but dumb and sloppy are not two of them.
And in case that reality needed any more evidence, look no further than Goldman's response to Warren and Baldwin's letter. A copy obtained by Politico shows Goldman General Counsel Gregory Palm operating at a peak level of terse and cutting 200 West Street-level shade throwing:
Dear Senators Baldwin and Warren:
We received your letter of February 10th, in which you ask Goldman Sachs for information with respect to communications between the firm and Gary Cohn, particularly in relation to the executive orders issued by the President earlier this month.
We had no involvement in the drafting of any executive orders, nor did we receive any advance notice of their issuance. More broadly, we are aware of the applicable rules and guidelines for interactions with government officials, and we have no reason to believe that individuals from Goldman Sachs breached them.
Consequently, if you have any additional questions, we would direct you to the White House.
Very truly yours,
Gregory K. Palm
Essentially, Goldman's head in-house lawyer is thanking the Senators for their absurd letter, assuring them that Goldman is not stupid and reminding them that Gary Cohn works in that big white house right down the street from their offices, not in Battery Park. Oh, and please get off his lawn.
We like to think that in his heart, Palm gets that Warren and Baldwin are pretty pissed off these days, and he might even understand why. But even with the fulsome emotional understanding of a Goldman Sachs attorney, Palm would really like them to know that they are barking up the wrong fucking tree.