Trump will leave business, but won’t sell

Posted at 12:04 PM, Jan 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-11 14:59:30-05

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — President-elect Donald Trump says he will transfer his business holdings to a trust run by his sons, but he won’t sell his stake — stopping far short of what ethics lawyers say would eliminate conflicts of interest.

In a press conference at Trump Tower, Sheri Dillon, a lawyer for Trump, said that his business and financial assets will be placed into the trust before he is inaugurated Jan. 20. But she said Trump will still receive reports on the overall profit of the Trump Organization, his worldwide empire.

Trump will resign his leadership of the company and transfer control to his two adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, and an in-house executive, she said. Dillon said that Trump will not discuss the business with them.

Outside ethics lawyers have repeatedly urged Trump to liquidate his holdings and hand the proceeds over to an independent trustee who controls them without his knowledge, a structure known as a blind trust.

Maintaining an ownership stake in his properties, they said, leaves the possibility that Trump’s personal profit motive could influence his decisions as president.

But Dillon told reporters that establishing a blind trust would be too complicated, and that no independent trustee is capable of running the Trump Organization.

“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” she said. “This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people.”

Dillon said the Trump Organization will not enter new deals in foreign countries while Trump is president. Any domestic deals that could raise conflict concerns will need the written approval of a newly appointed ethics officer, she said.

Dillon also said Trump will donate to the U.S. Treasury any profits from foreign government payments to his hotels.

But she dismissed concerns that Trump, by accepting hotel business from foreign governments, will be violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, as outside ethics have said.

“No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an Emolument,” she said.

Of the donations to the Treasury, she said, “This way it is the American people who will profit.”

While Trump will still receive profit-and-loss reports on the company as a whole, Dillon said, he will not see an accounting for individual businesses within the Trump Organization.

The Trump Organization will also add a chief compliance officer to its leadership ranks.

In the weeks since his election, the Trump Organization terminated all unfinished deals, and Ivanka Trump, who is expected to move to Washington and play a role in his presidency, will relinquish her roles at the Trump Organization, Dillon said.