Carl Icahn Perfectly Timed $30 Million Stock Dump Before Trump’s Tariff Announcement

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Chairman of Icahn Enterprises Carl Icahn participates in a panel discussion at the New York Times 2015 DealBook Conference at the Whitney Museum of American Art on November 3, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times)
The smile of a man who sold $30 million in crane stock before a global trade war.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Onetime Trump adviser Carl Icahn sold more than $30 million in steel-sensitive crane stock in the weeks before the president announced his intention to slap a 25 percent tax on steel imports, according to an SEC filing flagged by ThinkProgress.

Various partnerships under Icahn’s control sold off almost a million shares of the Manitowoc Co. starting with big sales on Feb. 12 and 13. On Feb. 16, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross published a report calling for a 24 percent tariff on steel imports to the United States.* On Feb. 21 and 22, Icahn dumped another several hundred thousand shares, dropping his ownership stake below 5 percent and releasing him from the responsibility to disclose further sales. Then, on Thursday, Trump announced he would be signing steel tariffs next week, despite vocal opposition from business interests.

Trump has been rumbling about steel tariffs since the campaign trail, of course, but Icahn’s timing was remarkable: Manitowoc’s stock has fallen by about 20 percent since Icahn began dumping it, punctuated by big losses after the Ross report and Trump’s announcement on Thursday. Icahn saved several million dollars by unloading his stock between $32 and $34 a share. (It was $27 at the time of publication.)

Icahn, who was an early supporter of Trump’s campaign, was named by the president-elect in late 2016 as a special adviser on regulatory reform, gaining direct access to the president without relinquishing any of his massive holdings. He resigned that position last summer after an article in the New Yorker revealed how he attempted to use his influence to adjust an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule to boost the value of refineries in which he had invested.

At the time, Trump appraised Icahn as “someone who is innately able to predict the future, especially having to do with finances and economies.” Consider it predicted.

Correction, March 2, 2018: This post originally misspelled Wilbur Ross’ first name.

Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox.