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Cohen, Benjamin Victor


COHEN, BENJAMIN VICTOR (1894–1983), U.S. lawyer and presidential adviser. Cohen was born in Muncie, Indiana. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1916. Cohen served as secretary to Judge Julian W. *Mack in New York until 1917, then as attorney to the U.S. Shipping Board. During 1919–21 he was counsel to the U.S. Zionists negotiating the Palestine Mandate terms at the London and Paris Peace Conferences. Returning to New York, he practiced law, specializing in corporate reorganization and legal counseling to lawyers. As Harvard protégés of Felix *Frankfurter, Cohen and Thomas G. Corcoran became members of an inner circle of advisers to President Franklin D. *Roosevelt from 1933. They provided ideas, facts, and statistics for many New Deal programs and drafted such important legislation as the Securities Act (1933), the Securities Exchange Act (1934), the Public Utility Holding Company Act (1935), and the Fair Labor Standards ("Wages and Hours") Act (1938). Cohen, who skillfully drafted the legislation, and Corcoran, who managed it through Congress, were both bitterly attacked and highly praised for the roles they played. Cohen's offices in government included associate general counsel to the Public Works Administration (1933–34) in charge of railroad loans; general counsel to the National Power Policy Commission (1934–41); and special assistant to the U.S. attorney general in public utility holding company litigation. In 1941 he was appointed adviser to the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. Cohen was director of the Office of Economic Stabilization (1942–43); general counsel, Office of War Mobilization (1943–45); counselor, U.S. Department of State (1945–47); legal adviser, International Monetary Conference, Bretton Woods, N.Y. (1944); and member of the U.S. delegation to the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, Washington, D.C. (1944), and to the peace conferences held after World War ii in Berlin, London, Moscow, and Paris. He is reputed to have helped write the United Nations Charter, and served the U.S. delegation to the un at several General Assemblies. In 1961 Cohen delivered the Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures at Harvard Law School, published as United Nations: Constitutional Developments, Growth, and Possibilities (1961). A friend of President Lyndon Johnson, Cohen studied the problem of oil reserves during his administration.

[Julius J. Marcke]

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