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After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001: Traders at the Investment Bank Goldman Sachs Are Told to Keep Working, Allegedly so as to Profit from the Attacks

Gary Cohn.Gary Cohn. [Source: Evan Walker / White House]Gary Cohn, head of commodities at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, instructs employees at the bank’s offices in Lower Manhattan to continue trading after the planes crash into the World Trade Center, so the company can make money out of what is happening. This is according to Nomi Prins, a managing director at the bank who is working in the Lower Manhattan offices this morning. [HuffPost, 9/3/2012; Mic, 1/27/2017] Just after the first hijacked aircraft crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), Prins is on the fourth-floor trading floor, which is the commodities trading floor. [Jerome Fritel and Marc Roche, 9/4/2012] She and her colleagues have little idea what has happened, but they follow the coverage of events on the television screens dotted around the trading floor. [Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, 9/11/2006; Progressive, 5/5/2014] “We just knew that there was an airplane that had hit the building,” she will later recall. “It wasn’t like we necessarily knew at that particular moment about it being a terrorist attack or not, but that was the initial instinct,” she will say.
Traders on the Oil Desk Continue Working during the Attacks - However, Cohn, who is in charge of the commodities trading floor, apparently makes no effort to find out more about what is happening, nor does he tell employees to evacuate the building, even though it is located just a few blocks away from the WTC. Instead, he instructs his traders to keep working. This, according to Prins, is “because his gut instinct was there could be money made out of whatever was going on, because it had to do with planes; so, if it had to do with planes, it had to do with oil; if it had to do with oil, [Goldman Sachs] could make money.” [Jerome Fritel and Marc Roche, 9/4/2012; Mic, 1/27/2017] Some employees find it “really off-putting” that the traders on the oil desk are “making market” at such a perilous time, “because people were trying to figure out what was going on,” Prins will comment. “It was just really strange,” she will add. [Progressive, 5/5/2014]
Commodities Head Is Trying to 'Take Advantage of That Volatility' - Reflecting on what happened in 2017, Prins will say she doesn’t think Cohn was “trying to put anybody in danger” by telling them to keep trading at a time of such uncertainty. Instead, she thinks that “while there was a sort of questioning as to what was going on and [a] combination of, at that point, both panic and uncertainty, what he wanted to have continue was for Goldman and the traders [to] take advantage of that volatility or that chaos in the trading of oil, which would be the commodity most related to airplanes.” Prins will leave Goldman Sachs a few months after 9/11 and become a journalist. She will write extensively and critically about the bank she previously worked for. [Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, 9/11/2006; PBS, 3/19/2012; Mic, 1/27/2017]

Entity Tags: Nomi Prins, Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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