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Top Democrats Seek Information on Icahn’s Suspiciously Timed Steel Trades

Mar 9, 2018
Press Release
Trump Adviser Dumped Stock Prior to Public Tariff Announcements

Washington, D.C. —Today, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and sent letters requesting information from Carl Icahn, the White House, the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Trade Representative regarding any non-public communications with Icahn before steel tariffs were recently announced by President Trump.

On March 2, it was reported that Icahn began selling more than $31 million worth of Manitowoc Company stock on February 12, just days before President Trump announced that he was planning to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports.  Icahn reportedly undertook these transactions after holding these stocks for three years.  Four days later, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced publicly his recommendation that the President consider a “global tariff of at least 24% on all steel imports from all countries.”  The stocks that Icahn sold—like those of other steel-dependent companies—lost 6% of their value.

“If Mr. Icahn had knowledge of the impending steel tariffs through conversations with officials in the Trump Administration—or with President Trump himself—he may have violated federal securities laws, which prohibit trading securities on the basis of ‘material nonpublic information,’” the Members wrote.

While the White House has not denied having contacts with Icahn before the steel tariffs were announced, Icahn Enterprises issued a statement asserting that “any suggestion that we had prior knowledge of the Trump administration’s announcement of new tariffs on steel imports is categorically untrue.”

“If Mr. Icahn had access to nonpublic information about the announcement of the steel tariffs, and traded on that information, that would raise serious questions about how the Trump Administration controls the disclosure of nonpublic information to outside individuals and entities—and what measures it takes to ensure that this information is not used for improper financial gain,” the Members wrote.

The Members requested information relating to any instances in which Trump or Administration officials discussed tariffs with Icahn; policies governing the disclosure of nonpublic information to outside individuals and entities; procedures prohibiting using nonpublic information for financial gain; and detailed information on the “investment reasons” for the Manitowoc stock trades and the timing of these trades.

Members previously raised concerns about Icahn’s conflicts of interest when he served as a “special adviser to the president on overhauling federal regulations.”  For example:

  • In an April 21, 2017, letter to the White House, Members warned about conflicts of interest with Icahn advising Trump while simultaneously serving as Chairman of the Board and majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises, a “diversified holding company” with interests that could be directly affected by his advice to the President.
  • In a May 16, 2017, letter, Members questioned why the White House treated Icahn as an “informal advisor, allowing him to avoid complying with basic ethics requirements that apply to other federal employees, such as requirements to disclose conflicts of interest, recuse himself from participating in issues on which he has conflicts, or divest from financial assets that pose potential conflicts.”
  • In a June 21, 2017 letter, Members questioned EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt regarding Icahn’s conflicts of interest and Agency measures to ensure that Icahn would not influence the Renewable Fuel Standard for personal profit.
  • In a July 25, 2017, letter, Members requested information from the White House to clarify whether Stefan Passantino, the White House’s designated ethics official, violated ethics rules in working on matters involving Icahn, who was his former client in private practice.

Three months after Icahn left his position with the Trump Administration, Icahn Enterprises disclosed that he was under federal investigation for his activities as a Trump adviser.

Click here to read the letter to Icahn.

Click here to read the letter to the White House.

Click here to read the letter to the Department of Commerce.

Click here to read the letter to USTR.

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