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‘Purest Definition of a Conflict’: Icahn’s $126 Million Gain on Biofuel Deal Draws Criticism
by Jennifer A Dlouhy, Ari Natter, and Bill Allison (Bloomberg) Investor Carl Icahn is also unpaid adviser to White House; Value of Icahn CVR Energy stake grew after biofuel deal -- Carl Icahn’s stake in a Texas refiner grew by as much as $126 million Tuesday after the billionaire investor and special adviser to President Donald Trump helped broker a proposal to alter U.S. biofuels policy.
Icahn Enterprises LP holds an 82 percent stake in refiner CVR Energy Inc., which gained as much as 7.7 percent on news
of a proposed deal to change the way the renewable-fuels program operates.
"This is the purest definition of a conflict of interest that you can get," said Tyson Slocum, a director at Washington-based watchdog Public Citizen. "It is clear that Icahn has played a role in influencing aspects of administration policy that have a direct financial impact on Icahn’s business at CVR."
While federal ethics rules prohibit government employees from profiting from their government service, those rules may not apply to Icahn, who isn’t paid for his service to the White House.
Icahn, the Renewable Fuels Association, Valero Energy Corp., and other entities hammered out a proposal on how they would overhaul the administration of the biofuel mandate and recently presented a memo to the White House outlining their compromise. That document included draft language for a presidential directive from Trump compelling the Environmental Protection Agency to make the administrative changes.
At one point Tuesday morning, Icahn’s stake in CVR and one of its subsidiaries increased by about $126 million, according to a Bloomberg analysis of market data. Some of the gains were erased by the time CVR closed up 77 cents, or 3.5 percent, at $22.92 in New York. It was the highest close since Feb. 21.
The Renewable Fuels Association, like other biofuel groups, had opposed the change as recently as last week in formal comments filed with the government. But the RFA’s president, Bob Dinneen, said the group agreed to the negotiations after being told the White House would make the adjustment with it or without it.
Jeff Broin, the chief executive officer of POET LLC, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, said the "back-room deal" didn’t reflect major voices in the ethanol industry.
"Carl Icahn has long been a self-interested, vocal critic of the program," Broin said in an emailed statement.
Federal ethics rules govern employees and outside consultants and experts, called special government employees. It’s not clear that an informal adviser like Icahn would be covered by them, even in a case when the advice given produced a personal benefit, according to John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency advocate.
"It’s certainly unethical, but as to whether it breaks any laws isn’t clear," Wonderlich said. READ MORE
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