Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg
Watchdog Upholds Treasury Official’s Free Flight to Palm Beach on a Hedge Funder’s JetBy
Mnuchin aide took trip on hedge fund founder’s private jet
No law broken because two became friends in 2016 campaign
The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog said a free private-jet trip to Palm Beach that a hedge fund founder provided a top department official didn’t break any ethics laws, though it urged employees to decline gifts that could appear to compromise their impartiality.
Eli Miller, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, accepted a March 23 invitation to travel on the private jet of Nelson Peltz, chief executive officer and founding partner of New York-based Trian Fund Management. Miller told Treasury’s Office of Inspector General that he and Peltz are friends and that they discussed “zero business” on the flight from Washington to Palm Beach, Florida, where Miller had a planned visit to his in-laws.
Miller sought advice from the department’s ethics officer before taking the flight, according to the inspector general’s report.
“I do not see his decision to accept it as improper,” Rich Delmar, counsel to inspector general Eric Thorson, said in a memo released Tuesday following a review. While the facts provided appear consistent with the definition of a personal relationship, Delmar cautioned that “legal does not always equate to appropriate or wise,” and any gift accepted that could lead to the appearance of partiality should be declined.
Miller and Peltz met in the spring of 2016 in connection to the Trump campaign, the memo said, citing interviews with Miller. The two have kept in touch since then and Miller now considers Peltz a “mentor,” according to the memo. Miller told the inspector general’s staff that the flight was paid for personally by Peltz, and not by his hedge fund.