Recusal, immediate payment of all taxes would mitigate Cohn's conflicts of interest in new role at NEC
WASHINGTON, D.C. - United States Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today sent a letter calling on incoming National Economic Council (NEC) Director — and former Goldman Sachs executive — Gary Cohn to recuse himself from any decisions related to Goldman Sachs in light of the $284 million windfall he received upon entering President Trump's Administration. In addition, the senators called on Cohn to immediately pay in full the taxes that would have been due had he not entered government service.
"The NEC requires a leader who does not play favorites, but focuses on every aspect of the economy, and a leader who will pay as much attention to the needs of the middle-class workers that drive the U.S. economy as he or she will to the billionaires that sit at the top," the senators wrote. "It is difficult to imagine how you can play that role as you walk away from Goldman Sachs with a windfall of nearly $300 million."
The letter continues: "serving the public in the White House is a privilege, and it requires leaders who can guarantee that they will be impartial and free of even the appearance of any explicit or implicit bias towards key individuals and companies."
The senators' letter requests that Cohn take "three specific steps to mitigate the potential conflicts of interest related to this extraordinary payment from Goldman Sachs." First, to recuse himself from decisions relate to Goldman Sachs for his entire term as NEC Director. Second, to recuse himself from any decisions that may have a significant indirect impact on Goldman Sachs. And third, to pay the full taxes that would have been due on his $284 million windfall had he not entered government service.
In order to prevent similar conflicts of interest, in 2015, Senators Baldwin, Warren and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act, which would outlaw the huge bonuses awarded to Wall Street executives who take government jobs in the agencies charged with regulating their former employers. The legislation would, among other provisions, prohibit federal employees from accepting bonuses form their former public sector employers in exchange for entering government service.
A copy of the letter is available here.