Gary Cohn rebuffed overtures from Wells Fargo directors to be its next chief executive earlier this year, The Post has learned.
Board members at the scandal-ridden bank had been pursuing the Wall Street banker — who stepped down as President Trump’s top economic adviser in March — as they explored options to replace CEO Tim Sloan, four sources familiar with the talks told The Post.
Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs GS, +2.35% who was long seen as the heir apparent to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, met with Wells Fargo WFC, +1.64% board members at least once around March or April this year — just weeks after he submitted his resignation as Director of the National Economic Council, one source told The Post.
“They approached him,” the source said. “He turned them down.”
Cohn — approached by The Post following an event in New York on Monday evening — emphatically denied that he was still in talks with Wells Fargo.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not—and you can put that on the record,” Cohn told The Post.
The revelations come as some Wells Fargo board members are starting to feel impatient with CEO Sloan, who was brought in nearly two years ago after his predecessor, John Stumpf, was ousted amid the fake-accounts scandal that came to light in 2016, two sources said.
Nevertheless, it’s unclear whether Sloan is leaving anytime soon, and to what degree directors’ efforts to find a successor have reached a formal stage, sources said.
“I don’t know if they have an active search, I know that they’re looking,” one Wall Street CEO told The Post.
“Their board isn’t 100 percent happy because he didn’t stop the bleeding,” another high-profile bank executive said. “He still has their support, but they’re not in love with him.”
Wells Fargo on Wednesday did not directly address questions about board members’ meeting with Cohn, and whether some directors have grown impatient with Sloan.
“The assertions in this story are inaccurate; Tim Sloan has the full support of the Wells Fargo board of directors,” Arati Randolph, a bank spokeswoman, told The Post.
Randolph declined to elaborate on the statement.
Meanwhile, speculation about the new landing place for 58-year-old Cohn — who had squabbled with Trump over everything from trade wars to Charlottesville — has become a favorite game on Wall Street.
“I knew a couple banks were poking their heads,” another CEO who’s friendly with Cohn told The Post.
Cohn even addressed the chatter at the Monday event — where he made headlines by questioning what laws bankers broke in the run-up to the financial crisis, and saying that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon would make a “phenomenal” president.
“I’m looking at some new and interesting — very, very interesting opportunities,” Cohn said.
As for Wells Fargo, fresh headlines about the bank’s aggressive sales culture have continued to spill out nearly two years after it settled with government agencies over opening millions of fake accounts and credit cards in customers’ names in order to meet sales quotas.
In the last two months, a judge has rejected the bank’s settlement agreement over unnecessary auto insurance as too small; the bank admitted that a glitch led to hundreds of home foreclosures; and the Justice Department has opened an investigation into employees altering wholesale customers’ documents, according to reports.
This is on top of multiple civil and criminal investigations, as well as class-action lawsuits over the company’s allegedly abusive sales practices.
Wells Fargo has apologized for some of its past behavior, and sought to make right by hurt customers.
But Sloan — who was COO and President when some of the aggressive practices were in place — doesn’t have forever to fix them, one source said.
“He’s just one problem away,” the executive said.