Sun, Mar 19, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Cohn offers plan to sell China bank stake


US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn disclosed a plan to sell his stake in the world’s largest bank by assets to comply with federal ethics laws and reduce conflicts of interest.

Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, owned almost 23.4 million shares of Beijing-based Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC, 中國工商銀行), according to a two-page disclosure dated March 8 and obtained by Bloomberg using public-records laws. The stake is valued at more than US$15 million and probably was acquired as part of January 2006 investment by Goldman Sachs Group Inc and its private-equity funds.

The filings also show that Cohn planned to divest more than US$216 million in Goldman Sachs stock, 18 other publicly traded shares and investments in eight company-managed funds. Cohn’s wife, Lisa Pevaroff, owned stakes in three such funds. It is unclear if they still own the investments.

The forms are just a portion of the disclosures expected for Cohn. He’s worth about US$600 million, with about 40 percent of that tied to shares of Goldman Sachs, where he served as president for a decade before leaving for government, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The New York Times reported on the disclosures earlier.

The federal ethics agency released Cohn’s divestiture paperwork in response to a Freedom of Information Act request — along with similar disclosures for White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, and their children; and Dina Powell, a senior counselor to the president who was named this week to be deputy national security adviser.

ICBC had more than 23 trillion yuan (US$3.3 trillion) in assets at the end of September.

ICBC is the largest office tenant at Trump Tower in Manhattan, and is set to renegotiate its lease during the president’s term in office. Ethics experts have said the arrangement may run afoul of the US Constitution’s emoluments clause, because the bank is state-owned. The clause bars US officials from accepting gifts or payments from governments.

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