Donald Trump’s transition team announced billionaire negotiator Carl Icahn would serve as special adviser in the new administration. Even though Icahn will not hold an official Cabinet position, he will likely help Trump undo many of the previous administration’s regulations.
Icahn, 80, has a lengthy experience as activist investor who has waged war on countless corporations. Reportedly, he would also have a say in the nomination of the next head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. People familiar with the matter said he is already interviewing potential candidates at Trump’s request.
Icahn recently helped president-elect to reject some candidates to the Environmental Protection Agency. The billionaire investor had a feud with the federal agency because one of its rules affected his oil refining business.
Sources said Icahn accepted the job enthusiastically even though it is not an official position and he won’t get paid for it. The big benefit is that he won’t have to put on hold his business operations to fend off potential conflicts of interest.
Both Trump and his new pick agree Obama administration gutted U.S. businesses with overregulation. Both men think the issue slows down business and investment in the U.S. And Icahn is the perfect man for the role in a regulatory overhaul.
In a recent interview, the business magnate said he would be wherever Trump wants him to be because Trump respects his views and listens to his advice. He criticized Washington “bureaucrats” for ruining good business in the country through “absurd regulation”.
Meanwhile, Trump praised his fellow billionaire for his negotiating skills. The real estate tycoon thinks Icahn would provide ‘invaluable’ help in loosening the regulatory reins.
Over the last 40 years, the investor has criticized countless corporate boards for being too stiff and hampering growth. Oftentimes, he managed to convince boards to sack ineffective CEOs, sell assets, or buyback stock.
With the new position, Icahn may have an even larger influence on Wall Street. For years, his critics blasted him for being a corporate raider, while some businesses even paid him to leave them alone. The practice aka “greenmail” was partially outlawed.
Icahn’s has many followers that copy his strategies. Nowadays, however, he influences big companies in a less dramatic way. He owns large chunks of stock at Xerox Corp., Apple, eBay and many others.
However, his pick for SEC chairman may not be completely unbiased since the agency keeps a close watch on activist investors like himself. SEC can issue rules that restrain their ability to do business and even police them. A future SEC chairman could decide on how much of the stakes and stock options activists should disclose and when. Trade groups have been pushing for quicker disclosures for years.
Icahn helped Trump on the campaign trail too which may explain the surprise nomination. He then urged the presidential candidate to help U.S. companies bring back cash into the U.S. and remove a controversial tax break on carried interest.
The two billionaires know each other from the time they were running casinos in New Jersey. Trump reportedly called Icahn on many occasions for advice on various topics. The Wall Street trader said he wants to give something back to the country.
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