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Gary Cohn says the 'Paradise Papers' don't worry him at all

  • Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs executive and Trump advisor, says the "Paradise Papers" don't bother him.
  • He was made an officer for many companies by virtue of his Goldman job, but he says he didn't personally invest.

Among the major business figures recently identified with activities in the tax haven of Bermuda is White House economic advisor Gary Cohn — and he says he doesn't mind a bit.

Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who directs President Donald Trump's National Economic Council, was named in the leaked "Paradise Papers" from a Bermuda-based law firm as an officer of 22 business entities in the island nation. He described their creation as a routine part of commerce in a globally integrated economy.

"I found out about them in the newspaper," Cohn explained in our Speakeasy interview. "Goldman Sachs had them. Because I worked at Goldman Sachs, in the division I was running at the time, I became an officer of those companies by the mere position I had. I didn't have money in them."

The purpose, he said, was to use Bermuda as a gathering spot for investors from different countries.

Gary Cohn
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Gary Cohn

"When you grow a global business, every country has different requirements," he explained. "When investors can't meet requirements in U.S., you try to find a neutral third-party country where you put all of the investors together, create a vehicle in that entity, pull the capital there."

Asked if the objective was avoiding taxes, he acknowledged, "It may have tax consequences."

"I'm not embarrassed at all," Cohn concluded. "This is the way that the world works. There was nothing done in any of these to avoid anything. In fact, many of these vehicles were set up to send capital into the U.S. to buy securities, or buy assets in the U.S. It's a way to facilitate the international commerce and a way to facilitate moving capital into the U.S."

CNBC's full Speakeasy interview with Cohn, touching on issues from tax reform to the operations of the Trump White House, will be published and aired on Thursday.