The purpose of a blind trust is to avoid conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest which may arise from a person’s duties at his place of work. We commonly make blind trusts for government officials and financial professionals.
In a blind trust, your assets would be managed by a person you trust. You will not know where your assets are invested, and will not be able to participate in decisions regarding the management of the assets. But you will be able to benefit financially from the trust and have almost all other ownership rights associated with owning assets. Whenever you need money, you will be able to ask the trustee to liquidate some assets, although you will not be able to tell the trustee which assets to liquidate.
You will not be able to mortgage or encumber the trust assets.
The tax consequences of most blind trusts are minimal.
It has become a standard compliance practice for many financial firms and government agencies to require that their professionals not own individual stocks unless they are placed in a blind trust. For example, there has been a recent shift in Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch Ratings Group to require their analysts to establish blind trusts for some assets. Blind trusts help financial firms that have access to pre-market information to shield themselves and their professionals from even a slight appearance of insider trading.
For a politician, the benefit is that you will not be accused of favoring certain interests to benefit your investments. For a government official, a blind trust minimizes the appearance of a conflict of interest involved in investing in companies while they are being regulated or investigated by your agency before that information penetrates the market. For a financial service professional, it’s a way of preventing being accused of insider trading.
In a blind trust, the trustee decides when assets are sold or disposed of, and in what ways the proceeds of the sale are reinvested. The person who owns the assets is not supposed to be involved in those decisions and is not even supposed to be notified of those decisions or transactions by the trustee of the blind trust.
Depending on the compliance policy or the choices involved, the blind trust can be revocable, which would make it easy to reverse the trust when it is no longer necessary and release the assets back into the control of the owner.
Blind trusts are a great way to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest while still being able to own the assets.
Albert Goodwin, Esq. is a New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer. He has experience in making blind trusts for financial professionals, politicians, government officials and others who need to prevent an appearance of a conflict of interest. He can be reached at (212) 233-1233.