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Icahn ends Trump advisory role

18 Aug 2017, 10.16 pm GMT

Icahn ends Trump advisory role

Houston, 18 August (Argus) — Investor Carl Icahn today said he would stop advising President Donald Trump on regulatory issues, citing "partisan bickering" and a recent appointment to a similar but official role.

Icahn said in a letter posted to the billionaire investor and occasional Trump business partner's website that he would stop advising to avoid distracting from the appointment of Neomi Rao as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. US Senators confirmed Rao to that role on 10 July.

Icahn said in the letter he "chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration or Ms. Rao's important work."

Democratic senators spent months questioning Icahn's role with the administration and seeking documents from federal agencies on Icahn's role in policy related to his businesses.

Trump named Icahn "special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform" in December. The position was honorary, allowing Icahn to advise Trump on industry issues without divesting from the businesses involved, Trump's transition team said at the time. It was not a federal job and had no specific duties, the team said.

Icahn's regulatory focus centered on the refining industry, according to the letter. The investor owns an 82pc share of US independent refiner CVR Energy, a midcontinent refiner with roughly 200,000 b/d of capacity.

A CVR representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

Icahn insisted in the letter that his role was not a conflict of interest and that he received no nonpublic information as a part of his advising.

Icahn sharply criticized the Renewable Fuel Standard, a biofuel blending mandate that has cost CVR Energy and other merchant refiners hundreds of millions of dollars. He pushed for changes to the program that would make companies that blended the fuel, such as large wholesale distributors, share obligations under the program.

Icahn's association with the administration helped to send prices for renewable identification numbers (RINs) used by refiners and other obligated parties to comply with the rules plummeting early this year, as the market anticipated changes to the program. But the Trump administration has kept the status quo this year, and Trump has repeatedly stated his support for the US renewable fuels industry. Regulators may soon reject proposals to shift the blending obligations, according to sources familiar with the decision.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) told eight senators in May that it had no investigation of any trading related to Icahn companies and federal blending mandates, but the effort otherwise produced few documents.

"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 said in the letter.

Icahn's resignation caps a week of business leaders separating from advisory roles to the Trump administration in the wake of Trump's comments on fatal violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia late last week. But Icahn made no reference to that response in the letter.

"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 had hoped on regulatory issues," Icahn wrote.

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