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Icahn bids adieu as Trump’s unofficial deregulation guru

Joe Mont | August 23, 2017

Billionaire investor and legendary corporate raider Carl Icahn has resigned from his role as a special advisor to President Donald Trump.

The move coincided with an article published in the New Yorker regarding conflicts of interest and Icahn’s efforts to parlay his unofficial White House post to personal gain. Critics, including those cited in the article, have cited Icahn’s stake in the Texas refiner CVR Energy as an example of how his influence at federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, could be a boon to his companies’ bottom lines.

Icahn announced his resignation in an Aug. 18 letter to President Donald Trump.

“This will confirm our conversation today in which we agreed that I would cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform,” Icahn wrote.

Icahn says he “received a number of inquiries over the last month” regarding the recent appointment of Neomi Rao as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, “or ‘regulatory czar,’ as the press has dubbed her.” Specifically, there were questions about whether there was any overlap between her formal position and his unofficial role.

“As I know you are aware, the answer to that question is an unequivocal no, for the simple reason that I had no duties whatsoever,” Icahn wrote. “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,” he added. “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 says he chose to end his White House arrangement “because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration or Ms. Rao’s important work.”

“While I do not know Ms. Rao and played no part in her appointment, I am confident based on what I’ve read of her accomplishments that she is the right person for this important job,” he wrote. “I sincerely regret that because of your extremely busy schedule, as well as my own, I have not had the opportunity to spend nearly as much time as I’d hoped on regulatory issues. I truly appreciate the confidence you have in me and sincerely hope that the limited insights I shared have been helpful to you.”

In December, prior to his inauguration, Trump announced made his now dissolved relationship with Icahn. “Over the course of six decades, Mr. Icahn has distinguished himself as one of America’s most successful businessmen and investors,” a statement on Trump’s transition team website said. “Mr. Icahn was one of President-elect Trump’s earliest supporters, and his intimate knowledge of what businesses need to grow and thrive makes him a trusted voice in developing President-elect Trump’s America First economic agenda. Icahn will be a leader in helping American entrepreneurs shed job-killing regulations that stifle economic growth.”

Icahn, a New York City native, began his career on Wall Street in 1961. In 1968, he formed Icahn & Co., and has gone on to become one of the most well-known and influential investors in America, holding substantial or controlling positions in numerous American companies over the years, including RJR Nabisco, Texaco, Philips Petroleum, Western Union, Gulf & Western, Viacom, Revlon, Time Warner, Motorola, Chesapeake Energy, Dell, Netflix, Apple, and eBay.