Carl Icahn, billionaire investor and close associate of President Donald Trump, issued an unusual statement Wednesday defending his recent sale of steel-related stock several days before Trump announced his intention to impose hefty tariffs on steel imports.
Icahn sold more than $30 million in steel-related stock, crane manufacturer Montiwoc, several days before Trump’s announcement. After Trump’s announcement last week, Montiwoc’s stock plummeted. Icahn’s impeccably timed move was first reported by ThinkProgress.
In response, Icahn issued the following statement (emphasis in original):
“We don’t generally comment on rumors, but the recent media speculation regarding our sale of Manitowoc stock calls for a response. We state for the record: Any suggestion that we had prior knowledge of the Trump administration’s announcement of new tariffs on steel imports is categorically untrue. We reduced our position in Manitowoc for legitimate investment reasons having nothing to do with that announcement.”
James Cox, a Duke Law professor who has been studying insider trading for five decades and who literally wrote the book on corporate governance, was unimpressed.
Cox told ThinkProgress that Icahn’s statement was “perfectly predictable, perfectly bland and devoid of anything other than conclusory statements.” He compared Icahn’s response to a suspected bank robber who is 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.
Cox renewed his call for a federal investigation of Icahn’s stock dump.
Icahn’s statement is also notable for what it doesn’t say. He does not discuss whether or not he has been in recent communication with Trump or whether they discussed the issue of steel tariffs or related matters. The White House has dodged similar questions.
Whether or not Icahn engaged in insider trading does not hinge on whether he knew the time and date of Trump’s steel tariff announcement. Rather, as Cox explained to ThinkProgress, the issue is whether Icahn had any information from Trump or someone else in the White House that gave him “a better insight of the possibility, if not likelihood, that Trump would impose these tariffs.”