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Gov. Scott seeks new ethics opinion on Florida's blind trust law

Gov. Rick Scott placed his extensive portfolio of personal investments in a blind trust in 2011, even though he was not required by law to do so.

Now, Scott is asking the Commission on Ethics for advice on whether the blind trust he created then complies with a new law passed by the 2013 Legislature. A draft legal opinion from the agency says Scott is in compliance -- now that he has provided specific information the law requires, including the name of his trustee, a two-year-old list of assets and a statement that the trust meets state law.

Citing the new blind trust provisions in the ethics law (SB 2) Scott signed May 1, the draft opinion says: "The law recognizes that a certain lack of knowledge, a 'blindness,' of a public officer as to the particular nature of his holdings inherently fosters an objectivity, or lack of conflict, as to public responsibilities or decision making he may have, which possibly would be affected if the officer personally managed his investments."

The opinion also notes that law prohibits officeholders such as Scott from trying to influence trust decisions. Previous reporting on Scott's investments is here.

Scott's general counsel, Pete Antonacci, requested the opinion along with an outside counsel for the governor, James Fuller of Williams & Connolly in Washington. The ethics commission will formally vote on the opinion at its next meeting Sept. 13. Five of the commission's nine members are Scott appointees.

Scott's trustee is Hollow Brook Wealth Management LLC in New York City. Attached to Scott's letter is a list of "substantially all of" his financial assets he placed in the blind trust in April 2011 when he created it, with a total value at that time of more than $72 million.

As his letter reads, "Any public reporting of the current assets in the trust would be contrary to the purposes and terms of the blind trust, this new legislation, and the Commission's advisory opinions." 

-- Steve Bousquet