Democrats turn up the heat on Carl Icahn

The billionaire investor "may have violated federal securities laws."

Carl Icahn. CREDIT: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times
Carl Icahn. CREDIT: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times

Democrats in Congress are demanding answers from Carl Icahn over his recent sale of steel-related securities just days before President Donald Trump announced hefty new tariffs on steel imports — a well-timed stock dump lawmakers say might have been illegal.

Icahn sold more than $30 million in steel-related stock, crane manufacturer Montiwoc, several days before Trump’s announcement last week on tariffs, after which Montiwoc’s stock plummeted. Icahn’s rather suspiciously-timed move was first reported by ThinkProgress.

The billionaire investor in statement this week insisted that allegations that he had prior knowledge about Trump’s announcement on steel import tariffs were “categorically untrue.”

But top lawmakers, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D-MD) top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA) and other senior members of Congress on Friday sent letters requesting information from Icahn, the White House, the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Trade Representative.


The lawmakers demanded to see any “non-public communications” officials might have had with Icahn before the steel tariffs were recently announced by Trump.

“If Mr. Icahn had knowledge of the impending steel tariffs through conversations with officials in the Trump Administration—or with President Trump himself—he may have violated federal securities laws, which prohibit trading securities on the basis of ‘material nonpublic information,” Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a press release.

If, as some suspect, someone in the administration gave Icahn a heads-up that the tariffs were about to be imposed, “that would raise serious questions about how the Trump Administration controls the disclosure of nonpublic information to outside individuals and entities—and what measures it takes to ensure that this information is not used for improper financial gain,” they wrote.

James Cox, a Duke Law professor who has been studying insider trading for five decades and who literally wrote the book on corporate governance, has called for an investigation of the transaction, which he considers shady.


He told Think Progress that Icahn’s response is like that of a suspected bank robber caught with a bag full of money saying, “I have all this cash because I found it on the street.”

There is a chance it is true, but the circumstances still warrant a thorough investigation, he said.