Billionaire corporate-raider turned activist Carl Icahn on Wednesday was named special adviser to President-elect Trump on overhauling federal regulations, a role that could help advance his insurgent fund agenda because it will involve helping the White House pick a new chairman for the nation's securities regulator.
"Carl was with me from the beginning and with his being one of the world's great businessmen, that was something I truly appreciated," said Trump in a statement. "He is not only a brilliant negotiator, but also someone who is innately able to predict the future especially having to do with finances and economies. His help on the strangling regulations that our country is faced with will be invaluable."
In this role, Icahn is reportedly involved in helping the Trump transition team pick the next chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Several reports in recent days have suggested that Trump is likely to pick Debra Wong Yang, a former U.S. Attorney and partner in the LA office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP as the next SEC chief.
However, Icahn's involvement in the selection process could add a new wrinkle into the it, especially if he supports candidates where his interests don't necessarily align with that of mainstream Republicans. A close Trump ally, Icahn is a strong advocate for limits on CEO pay and shareholder rights.
Case in point: It is likely that Icahn will push for an SEC chief that will seek to rewrite the rules for proxy fights that pit dissident directors against incumbent boards in a manner that will give institutional investors more flexibility when it comes to picking nominees. Icahn applauded the SEC for issuing a draft rule on the subject even though the measure was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the agency's one current GOP commissioner, Michael Piwowar.
Expect Icahn also to be opposed to an effort driven by the corporate community and many mainstream Republicans that would have the SEC shorten the number of days an insurgent investor has to file a public disclosure with the agency in the form of an activist Schedule 13D when the investor acquires 5% or more of a company.
In his decades long career as a raider-turned-activist, Icahn has railed against executive compensation packages offered to many top executives. That's why it is possible Icahn also may be more supportive of an SEC proposal that is unlikely to be approved before the change in administration that would require big financial firm executives to wait much longer to cash out bonuses. He may also back a yet-to-be-approved measure that gives corporations several years to claw back CEO pay connected to misconduct.
However, should Icahn identify an SEC chairman that is supportive of limits on CEO pay expect that individual to be at odds with mainstream Republicans, including Piwowar, who are opposed to limits on CEO pay.
Icahn's position on proxy fight rules and disclosure of positions may be at odds with another candidate reportedly under consideration for SEC Chairman, former agency commissioner, Paul Atkins, a libertarian who is unlikely to move to adopt pay rules if he were picked as chairman.