By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Several Democratic senators on Monday pressed billionaire investor Carl Icahn to clarify his role as an adviser to President Donald Trump, saying his position in the administration raised “alarming” questions about potential conflicts of interest with his holdings in the biofuels and pharmaceutical industries.
The senators, led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, sent a letter to Icahn noting that, as Trump’s adviser on regulation, he has made policy proposals that benefit his own investments, ranging from an oil refinery to a manufacturer of oil. nutritional supplements.
“We write because we are increasingly concerned about the role it is playing in the Trump Administration and the possibility that it is violating federal conflict of interest laws,” the seven senators wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.
Calls to Icahn’s office and attorney were not immediately returned.
Icahn has come into the limelight in recent weeks after the Renewable Fuels Association said it had informed them that Trump was preparing an executive order to review the US biofuels program in a way that would benefit the US. refineries.
The White House was quick to deny that it had an executive order in process, noting that Icahn played an informal and unpaid role as Trump’s adviser.
The senators said that even though the management downplayed his role, Icahn has disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that he was a special advisor, meaning he is important to shareholders of companies in which he has stakes.
Icahn owns an 82 percent stake in CVR Energy, which along with other refining companies, has called for changes to the Renewable Fuels Program to shift the burden of blending biofuels with gasoline away from refineries and further on to marketers. Icahn has said the change would help the entire refining industry, not just CVR.
Icahn also owns interests in Herbalife (NYSE 🙂 and Bristol Meyers-Squib. The senators said Icahn had helped Trump elect the heads of the Treasury, Commerce and the SEC, who have some oversight over the companies in which he has interests.
“Your ownership of each of these companies, and others, raises alarming questions about how you and the Trump Administration are handling your many conflicts of interest,” the senators wrote.
In their letter, the senators said Icahn should be reclassified by the Trump administration as a special government employee, which would subject him to ethical requirements.
When Trump announced in December that Icahn would be a special adviser, Trump made it clear that “he will not serve as a federal or special government employee and will have no specific duties.”
The letter also includes more than a dozen questions about Icahn’s ties to management, including whether it has received exemptions from ethical requirements and whether it has divested some of its financial holdings.
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