Receiving Wide Coverage ...

Double-edged sword: With so many of its former employees manning posts in the Trump administration, Goldman Sachs would appear to have a "unique and influential edge," the New York Times writes. And certainly the company's stock – as well as that of other banks, to be sure – has benefited from Trump's election. "Yet the Trump connection may actually be more of a liability, people close to the firm contend." One reason: "The constant scrutiny a company naturally falls under when five of its former executives are named to prominent government positions."

But Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein says his former colleagues now in government service "bend over backward to avoid any perception of favoritism." In his annual letter to shareholders, Blankfein defended the many prominent alumni who have held senior positions in the government, both past and present. Speaking of Gary Cohn, Goldman's former president and now Trump's National Economic Director, Blankfein wrote: "Gary was not the first person from Goldman Sachs to join the government, and we hope and expect that he will not be the last. Five of my most recent predecessors went into government service, and that has not been by happenstance."

Here's a list of the major Goldman personnel who have served in the past four administrations.

Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council.
Gary Cohn may be the latest Goldman Sachs alum to take a government post "and we hope and expect that he will not be the last," said Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Bloomberg News

As part of his disposition of assets to eliminate potential conflicts in his new role, Cohn is selling about $16 million of stock he owns in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's biggest bank by assets. Outside of his shares in Goldman, the Chinese bank shares appear to be his largest holding, according to the Times.

Wall Street Journal

Easier to merge: The Federal Reserve may be making it easier for smaller banks to merge. Buried in a document that approved the merger of People's United and Suffolk Bancorp, the Fed said it eschewed doing the traditional full analysis of whether the combined bank — with about $40 billion in assets and 400 branches — would have posed a threat to the stability of the U.S. financial system. "Experience has shown that proposals involving an acquisition of less than $10 billion in assets, or that result in a firm with less than $100 billion in total assets, are generally not likely to create institutions that pose systemic risks," the Fed said. Previously those thresholds were $2 billion and $25 billion, respectively.

"The change is unlikely to unleash a flood of bank deals," the Journal said, but "it suggests the Federal Reserve is more open to approving mergers of small and midsize banks."

Good behavior: Meet David Miller, Citigroup's "on-call ethicist." Miller, who runs Princeton University's Faith & Work Initiative, helps the bank wrestle with "weighty questions of right and wrong, supplementing its armies of lawyers and compliance officers." He has worked with the bank for the last three years "to tackle abstract issues about banking and morality."

Financial Times

No biggie: Moody's reports the new international accounting standard that requires banks to change the way they account for bad loans may have a more modest impact on banks' capital than first feared. Earlier reports indicated the new standard, dubbed IFRS 9, could lead to a more than 50% increase in provisions for bad debts that would wipe out more than 1% of the capital at many of the world's biggest banks. But a Moody's survey found the impact would be well less than 0.5%, in many cases as low as 0.1%.

New York Times

Shrewd move: "In a quirk of timing that might raise some questions," Wells Fargo's former CEO John G. Stumpf last year exercised stock options and other stock awards just one month before regulators announced penalties against the bank for opening millions of fake accounts, the paper reports. That enabled Stumpf to realize more than $83 million before taxes, more than double the $41 million in unvested stock awards he forfeited because of the scandal.

Quotable ...

"He took his winning tickets to the window while the window was still open. He forfeited a significant sum, but at the end of the day, what he walked away with was even more significant." — Executive compensation consultant Brian T. Foley on John G. Stumpf's stock transactions

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