Democrats Wary of Icahn Self-Dealing as Trump Regulatory Adviser

Source: By ALEXANDRA STEVENSON, New York Times • Posted: Monday, February 13, 2017

President Trump leaving Air Force One on Sunday at Joint Base Andrews after a weekend in Florida. Al Drago/The New York Times 

Democrats eye Icahn’s potential conflicts of interest in regulatory role

Last year, the billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn waged an all-out battle with the Environmental Protection Agency, complaining that regulations were strangling the oil industry. Now, as Mr. Trump’s special adviser on overhauling regulation, Mr. Icahn has the ear of the president and a front-row seat as the administration rewrites regulation.

This has some Democratic senators worried. On Monday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, and six other Senate Democrats will send a letter to the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, seeking responses to a series of questions related to Mr. Icahn’s official role. The senators will raise concerns that Mr. Icahn will work to change regulations to benefit his own investments. They are also seeking assurances that safeguards have been put in place to ensure that Mr. Icahn does not have access to information that is not public that could be used to make profitable trades.

The letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, comes days before the Senate is expected to take up the nomination of Scott Pruitt, Mr. Trump’s candidate to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Icahn Enterprises, Mr. Icahn’s firm, has large investments in companies that are affected by E.P.A. regulations, which he has described as stifling. But it is his majority investment in CVR Energy, an oil refiner, that is of biggest concern to the senators. CVR is required by the E.P.A. to blend its oil or buy credits, something Mr. Icahn has called “completely, totally absurd.” He has blamed the E.P.A. for the bankruptcies of several oil refineries in the United States.

An activist investor and outsider for most of his career, Mr. Icahn staked his career on attacking the chieftains of intransigent companies and regulators. The caustic approach often resulted in victory, a strategy that earned him accolades from Mr. Trump as a “brilliant negotiator.” Mr. Icahn was one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters and a donor during the campaign. During the transition, he weighed in on candidates like Mr. Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and Mr. Pruitt, who has also been vocal in his criticism of E.P.A. regulation.

At the time of his appointment, the transition team said Mr. Icahn, 80, would not serve as a federal employee and would not have specific duties. Since the election in November, CVR’s stock has gained 69 percent, rallying to $21.58 a share.