On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump named activist investor Carl Icahn as an adviser on regulatory issues, and picked strident China critic Peter Navarro to head a new White House advisory council on trade and industrial policy. Icahn, a top donor to Trump's campaign, will draw no salary, but the position will give the billionaire investor a large say over how his own industry is regulated, leading securities lawyer Andrew Stoltmann to call the appointment "a little like asking the fox to guard the hen house." "Carl was with me from the beginning, and with his being one of the world's great businessmen, that was something I truly appreciated," Trump said in a statement. "His help on the strangling regulations that our country is faced with will be invaluable."
Icahn, 80, will help Trump pick a new Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, a position with a direct impact on Icahn's form of shareholder activism, and he was a key adviser as Trump was deciding on his selection to head the Environmental Protection Agency. One of the regulations Icahn has been vocal about scrapping would save an oil refinery he controls, CVR Energy Inc., more than $200 million this year, The Wall Street Journal reports, and the 67 percent rise in CVR Energy's shares since Trump's election has boosted the value of Icahn's investment by more than $600 million. He has rejected suggestions that he is advising Trump to advance his own economic interests.
Navarro, 67, is a professor at UC Irvine and the only PhD economist in Trump's inner circle. He has argued, including in a 2012 documentary called Death by China, that China is beating the U.S. in an economic war by subsidizing its exports and restricting U.S. imports. In a statement, Trump called Navarro "a visionary economist" who will "develop trade policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth, and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores." Most economists say that Trump's policies to bring about those changes would damage the U.S. economy and raise prices for American consumers, noting that the big driver behind shrinking factory jobs is mechanization not trade.