After accepting a position as Trump’s special advisor on regulatory reform in December, Icahn resigned this week. Speculation in the news suggests Icahn preemptively resigned before a news story on conflicts of interest between his post and his businesses broke.
Icahn addressed conflict of interest claims in his resignation letter
Shortly after news broke, Icahn posted his full resignation letter on his personal website. In it, he addresses the allegations:
“I never had a formal position with your administration nor a policymaking role. And contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest. Indeed, out of an abundance of caution, the only issues I ever discussed with you were broad matters of policy affecting the refining industry. I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.”
Icahn is correct that this was never an official position in the Trump administration. Nonetheless, from the beginning critics were worried his influence with the President could result in some biased decision making.
Forthcoming report looks at Icahn’s ties to energy industry
Allegedly, a New Yorker story about Icahn caused him to leave his post. The story is live now, but actually posts a dateline of Aug. 28, 2017.
The story focuses largely on Icahn’s financial stake in a company called CVR Energy. Icahn successfully took over controlling interest in the refinery company in 2012. Once Trump appointed Icahn to the advisory post, stock in the company immediately jumped 11.5 percent.
Icahn got to benefit from that jump because his role was not official. With no actual position and no actual salary, Icahn did not have to divest of any business interests that might conflict with his appointment.
The New Yorker piece is rather critical of Icahn and his cutthroat business tactics. It also focused on his stance on ethanol and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One year ago, Icahn wrote an open letter to EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe calling for a change in how the organization handled ethanol.
During his administration, George W. Bush enacted a measure that required refineries to blend some amount of ethanol into their product. If refineries did not have the ability to blend in ethanol, they could purchase environmental credits from refineries who did. CVR did just that, but soon Icahn and the company saw the cost of those credits skyrocket.
Icahn called out the EPA, and McCabe in particular, for not knowing how businesses operate. His goal as Trump’s advisor was to provide insight from someone operating in these spaces, not regulating them.
Icahn previously gave up on Trump Taj Mahal before giving up on Trump
This is not the first time in recent memory Icahn quit something Trump-related. Icahn purchased the struggling Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City in 2016 after loaning it money to avoid bankruptcy in previous years.
After labor disputes with the local union and a conflict with state regulators that bears a resemblance to his run-in with McCabe, Icahn decided to close the property last November. Hard Rock bought the casino for pennies on the dollar. The company is in the process of renovating and plans to reopen it over Memorial Day weekend next year.
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