POLITICO Interviews Matthew Sanderson: Tillerson Adds to Trump's Ethics Headaches
To become secretary of state, Rex Tillerson will have to do what Donald Trump has so far refused to: give up his stake in the company that has been his life’s work.
Tillerson is one of seven Cabinet nominees who come with sprawling portfolios that will need to be unwound. The White House counsel will have to coordinate with the nominees to determine what measures they take to eliminate conflicts of interest or else face questions about why their approaches varied, said Matt Sanderson, a political law attorney at Caplin & Drysdale.
“This is as complicated as it gets,” Sanderson said. “This is a unique situation in that you have multiple whales here.”
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Tillerson’s pension payments, even if the amounts are fixed, still meet the definition of a financial conflict, Sanderson said. Tillerson could negotiate with Exxon to cash out in advance or suspend the payments while in office.
For stock options, Tillerson’s lawyers and the ethics office could find a way to let Tillerson keep his stock options, perhaps by having the trust manager execute them as soon as they vest and donating any profits above Monday's share price, Sanderson said.
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Tillerson could go beyond legal requirements and soothe concerns by recusing himself from any energy policy and delegating those responsibilities to a deputy, Sanderson said.
“If you were to give a gold star for trying to avoid conflicts, it would be divestment plus this extra measure to assure the American public their interests are being pursued and not the interests of certain energy firms,” Sanderson said.
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Excerpt taken from the article “Tillerson Adds to Trump’s Ethics Headaches” by Isaac Arnsdorf for POLITICO.