Trump needs to sell his business interest entirely to avoid any conflict of interest: legal experts

Trump has set Dec. 15 as the date on which he will make his stand clear. He will have to disassociate himself and his kids from all of his business interests before he takes office on January 20, 2017.

Before U. S. President-elect takes office, he has several options to disentangle himself from his business empire. As per legal experts, the only way to entirely avoid conflicts of interest would be if Trump were to sell his global holdings.

On Wednesday, Trump had tweeted that on December 15 he would unveil his plans which would remove him “completely out of business operations”.

Trump will take office on January 20.

Although Trump has yet to spell out his plans, several ideas have now gained prominence.

Maryland Democrat, Senator Ben Cardin, has proposed that Trump be required to establish a blind trust, which will function independently and which will manage his holdings.

However, s per legal experts, a blind trust only works if the office holder does not know how the trustee has invested the money. Much of Trump’s money is available in highly visible investments such as luxury hotels and properties branded with his name, so trustees will be fully aware of holdings.

According to Richard Painter, who acted as President George W. Bush, a blind trust would not protect against some of Trump’s most dangerous conflicts.  Painter has urged members of the Electoral College to refuse to give Trump the presidency unless he sells his business interests.

With Trump’s extensive overseas investment in real estate, there arises the question of providing security to them. Such costs will be borne by American taxpayers. Furthermore, these could very well become the target of violent Islamist extremists and thus ensnare the U.S. in a foreign conflict.

 “A blind trust is a fairy tale in this context,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor of law who specializes in ethics at New York University School of Law.

Another option would be to appoint corporate monitors. The idea was first touted by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. In his article he had suggested that Kenneth Feinberg’s name. Feinberg oversaw the compensation of funds for the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

Judges typically appoint monitors to oversee court settlements. If a party violates a deal, the monitor can then drag them back to court where the party will once again face potential penalties imposed by the judge.

However, any corporate monitor who is to oversee Trump’s business will not have a judge’s backing, since Trump’s refusal to cooperate will be a major public embarrassment.

“That’s bad for Trump, but it’s not the same as having a judge instruct a party in court that unless you buckle up and do what I say you’re back in court and I’ll impose more dramatic sanctions,” said Gillers.

Both Gillers and Painter agree that the best way to minimise any potential conflicts of interest would be to entirely sell all of Trump’s organisations. Furthermore, Trump’s children should also be disassociated from his businesses.

“What he needs to do is get to the place where Trump’s interest in profit of any Trump entity is the same as my interest or your interest or the interest of the person on the street,” said Gillers.

That however presents a new set of complications since Trump has a large portfolio of real estate developments, with a number of legal entities.

“So, each one has to be sold individually. That’s a pain,” said Brian Quinn, a professor at the Boston College Law School. Such a sale would take a long time.

Furthermore, real estate developers typically involve a building owner who, in turn, contracts someone with a brand able personality, like Trump, to manage the property. Such contracts derive their value from the brand name, (in this instance) Trump.

“It won’t be easy to do. He’ll probably take a bath on the transactions,” said Quinn.

“But it’s really the only way for him to go forward. Simply handing over day-to-day management of the businesses to his kids will not be enough.”

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Categories: Creativity, Economy & Finance, Entrepreneurship, HR & Organization, Regulations & Legal, Strategy

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