Monthly Archives: September 2015

Donald Trump’s first Cabinet pick is just as controversial as he is, and a lot richer

By Ana Swanson

Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn on May 19. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)

One of the world’s richest men. A ruthless corporate raider. A brilliant loner. A philosopher and chess player, always thinking 10 moves ahead of you. The phone call that CEOs can’t afford to ignore. A Rhodesian Ridgeback going for the jugular of corporate lions.

These are some of the most common descriptions of Carl Icahn, the 79-year-old investor whom Forbes ranked as the world’s 31st richest person in 2015. Icahn’s name has been in the news for decades, mostly because of his battles with the executives of dozens of high-profile companies.

Now Icahn is once again in the spotlight, as his longtime business contact, friend and rival Donald Trump, the front-running Republican candidate, says he will nominate Icahn for treasury secretary.

Icahn is a fascinating figure, seen as a kind of financial Robin Hood by some and a misanthropic attack dog by others – often depending on whether the speaker has been in Icahn’s scope. Icahn grew up in the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Far Rockaway, Queens, and still retains a Queens accent, relatively modest tastes for one of the world’s richest men, a working class identity — and, some would say, a chip on his shoulder.

Icahn, who has not responded to requests for comment, made his name as a corporate “raider” in the 1980s. He was among a group of activist investors who engaged in a practice called “greenmailing” — a portmanteau of “greenback” and “blackmailing,” in which investors would buy up a company’s stock and threaten a hostile takeover. The company would be forced to buy its stock back at a premium to stop the takeover, enriching the investors.

A 2001 handout photo of billionaire financier Carl Icahn. AP Photo

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There’s now a House “Men for Women” Caucus, but its policy agenda is unclear

By Lydia DePillis

Rep. Don Beyer announces the founding of the House Men for Women Caucus, backed by women on corporate boards. (Courtesy of Rep. Don Beyer)

Rep. Don Beyer announces the founding of the House Men for Women Caucus, backed by women on corporate boards. (Courtesy of Rep. Don Beyer)

Over the past few weeks, a new trend in female advancement has emerged: Getting men to back up women. Actress Emma Watson is fronting a United Nations initiative called “HeforShe,” which enlists guys in solidarity with the rights of women and girls. Companies are scrambling to offer parental leave policies as part of beefed-up family benefits, and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s husband just penned a manifesto about why fathers should take on parenting responsibilities to support their wives’ careers.

Into this zeitgeist steps Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who today founded the Men for Women Caucus in the U.S. House “to promote economic growth through women’s empowerment.” Standing in front of a impressive lineup of women who sit on corporate and non-profit boards, Beyer outlined all the benefits of boosting women’s representation in the workforce, particularly in the highest echelons of power.

“When women succeed, our economy succeeds,” Beyer said at the National Press Club, promising to “sponsor legislation, convene stakeholders, and communicate the economic imperative of moving to greater parity.” Accompanying him for the announcement was Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP and founding chairman of the U.S. chapter of the 30 Percent Club, which seeks to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards and other executive positions.

Current inequities are easy to illustrate in statistics. Female labor force participation is 57.2 percent, compared to 69.7 percent for men, and is projected to decline over the next decade. Men make up 80 percent of all board seats on the S&P 500, which is about the same percentage of men in Congress.

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It’s not clear, however, how …read more

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Democrats demand answers from another drug company that jacked up prices

By Carolyn Johnson

Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli this month on CBS. (Screenshot via CBS News)

Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli this month on CBS. (CBS News)

Leaping off the public outrage over Turing Pharmaceuticals’ sudden decision to hike the price of an old pill by more than $700, politicians are demanding answers from another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, that bought two heart drugs and boosted their prices earlier this year.

The Democrats who serve on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are demanding the company be subpoenaed after failing to sufficiently answer their questions about the massive increase in drug prices. Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has sent a detailed list of 22 questions to the company, probing its simple explanation that it increased the two heart drugs prices because they were “significantly underpriced.”

“Valeant is using precisely the same business model as Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager whose company recently purchased the life-saving drug Daraprim and increased the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill ‘overnight,'” the House Democrats wrote.

[The drug industry wants us to think Martin Shkreli is a rogue CEO. He isn’t.]

The House Democrats also requested that the chief executives of Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals appear before the oversight committee in hearings next week “since both appear to be engaging in the same model of acquiring potentially life-saving drugs to maximize their own corporate profits,” they wrote in a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the committee.

In February, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought Nitropress, a congestive heart failure and hypertension drug, and Isuprel, a drug used to treat abnormal heart rhythms. The Wall Street Journal revealed that that same day, the company hiked the drug prices — tripling that of a 2-milliliter vial of Nitropress to $805.61 and jacking up that of a 1-millimeter vial of Isuprel from $215 to …read more

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