| WASHINGTON, March 27
WASHINGTON, March 27 Several Democratic senators
pressed billionaire investor Carl Icahn on Monday 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 stakes in the biofuels
and pharmaceutical industries.
The senators, led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island,
sent a letter to Icahn pointing out that, as a Trump adviser on
regulation, he has made policy proposals that benefit his own
investments - which range from an oil refinery to an nutritional
"We write because we are increasingly concerned about the
role you are playing in the Trump Administration and the
possibility that you are breaking federal conflict of interest
laws," the seven senators wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.
Calls to Icahn's office and lawyer were not immediately
Icahn has been thrust into the limelight in recent weeks
after the Renewable Fuels Association said he had informed them
that Trump was preparing an executive order to overhaul the U.S.
biofuels program in a way that benefited refiners.
The White House quickly denied it had an executive order in
the works, and pointed out that Icahn held an informal, unpaid
role as adviser to Trump.
The senators said that despite the administration
downplaying his role, Icahn has disclosed to the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) that he was a special adviser, meaning
it is important to shareholders of the companies in which he
holds stakes in.
Icahn owns an 82 percent stake in CVR Energy, which
along with other refining companies, has called for changes to
the Renewable Fuel Program to shift the burden of blending
biofuels into gasoline away from refiners and further down
stream to marketers. Icahn has said the change would help the
entire refining industry, not just CVR.
Icahn also owns stakes in Herbalife and Bristol
Meyers-Squib. The senators said Icahn had helped Trump
pick the heads of the Treasury, Commerce, and the SEC, which
have some oversight over the companies in which he has a stake.
"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
re-classified by the Trump administration as a special
government employee, making him subject to ethics requirements.
When Trump announced in December that Icahn would be a
special adviser, Trump made clear he would "not be serving as a
federal employee or a Special Government Employee and will not
have any specific duties."
The letter also includes over a dozen questions about
Icahn's ties to the administration, including whether he has
received waivers from ethics requirements, and whether he has
divested from some of his financial holdings.
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bernard Orr)