Disclosure reveals top Trump trade adviser bets against U.S. Treasury bonds

Peter Navarro, head of Trump’s National Trade Council, could profit from America’s failure.

Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro at Friday’s executive order signing CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro at Friday’s executive order signing CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

On Friday afternoon, Donald Trump signed a pair of trade-related executive orders that he claimed would “defend our industry and create a level playing field for the American worker.” Standing by his side — and joining him for a phone call with reporters — was his top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, who explained that the president’s protectionist orders would address the “long-festering problem” of product dumping and would go “like a laser at the problem.”

Hours later, his administration released financial disclosure forms for key administration staffers, including Navarro. The documents (submitted on January 10 and approved March 30) show the economist enjoyed a six-figure salary as a University of California-Irvine professor and owners a pair of rental properties in Troy, New York, but one investment in particular stands out.

Navarro — whom Trump picked to “develop trade policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth, and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores”—said he owned at least $15,001 in a fund called TBT UltraShort Lehman 20+.

The fund, now called the TBT ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury “seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to two times the inverse (-2x) of the daily performance of the ICE U.S. Treasury 20+ Year Bond Index.”

Peter Navarro PFDTitle I of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended (the Act), 5 U.S.C. app. § 101 et seq., as amended by the…www.scribd.comThe operative word in the name is “short.” The fund allows investors to profit based on the opposite performance of U.S. Treasury securities. In other words, the fund allows Navarro and other investors to bet against the United States debt, on the presumption that U.S. Treasury bonds will be worth less over time. Should the United States default on its national debt, the stock value would skyrocket.

While the Trump administration is reportedly pushing for a debt-ceiling increase now, in 2012 and 2013 he advocated against doing so — essentially suggesting the Congress should do nothing while the U.S. defaults on its national debt.

While theoretically his holdings could create a financial incentive for Navarro recommend policies that are harmful to the stability of U.S. Treasury securities as part of Trump’s economic team, at the very least, it could indicate just how little faith he has in Trump’s ability to make “make America great again.”

Navarro is not the first prominent politician to effectively bet against America with his investments. In 2010, then House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) came under fire for investing up to $15,000 in share in the ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury exchange-traded fund. In 2012, ThinkProgress reported that Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who was campaigning on stopping a debt ceiling increase, and his wife owned ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury and other bond-shorting investments.