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‘I think there very well could be a recession or even worse’: Billionaire Carl Icahn issues ominous warning

March 23, 2022, 5:42 PM UTC

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is expecting some serious economic turmoil ahead as consumers battle rising inflation and markets attempt to cope with the economic fallout from the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“I think there very well could be a recession or even worse,” Icahn told CNBC’s Scott Wapner on Tuesday, arguing that U.S. executives aren’t ready for the coming storm.

“The system needs fixing. There’s no accountability in corporate America. You have some very fine companies, some very fine CEOs, but far too many that are not up to the task that I think is going to be necessitated,” the founder and chairman of Icahn Enterprises said.

Icahn, who boasts a net worth of over $15 billion and is known for taking activist stakes in companies in order to send them in a new direction, has long been a critic of bad corporate governance. 

Now he’s arguing that a lack of leadership in top U.S. firms will exacerbate the economic repercussions of inflation and rising geopolitical tensions. As a result, the billionaire investor has kept his long-term investments hedged over the last few years, hoping to protect against the increasing likelihood of a recession in the U.S.

Icahn pointed to high inflation in particular as an alarming new trend, noting that supply-chain issues continue to persist, and controlling rising prices isn’t always an easy feat.

“Inflation is a terrible thing when it gets going. You can’t get that genie back in the bottle too easily; we saw it in the ’70s,” Icahn said. “In the last 20 or 30 years…you had cheap goods coming in from the Far East…And I think those days are over now, and you have this war going on now which adds another problem to your inflationary picture.”

U.S inflation hit a four-decade high in February with consumer prices rising 7.9% compared to a year ago. The Federal Reserve recently hiked interest rates by a quarter-point in an effort to cool the economy and curb widespread price increases, and officials have indicated more hikes are set to come. But Icahn questioned whether the Fed will be able to control inflation without creating a recession.

“I really don’t know if they can engineer a soft landing,” Icahn said. “I think there is going to be a rough landing.” 

Although his comments this week were pinned on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent financial consequences, this isn’t Icahn’s first warning of potential pain for investors and the U.S. economy in the near future. 

In January 2021, the billionaire investor said that stock prices were out of whack, and eventually the market would see a serious correction.

“In my day, I’ve seen a lot of wild rallies with a lot of mispriced stocks, but there’s always one thing they all have in common. Eventually, they hit a wall and go into a major painful correction, and nobody can predict when it will happen. But when it does, look out below,” Icahn said in 2021.

On Tuesday, Icahn also discussed the rise of retail trading and “gambling” in the stock market, criticizing many market participants for their lack of a consistent strategy.

“You have a lot of people in this market, I think more than I’ve ever seen, who have no idea what they’re doing,” the billionaire investor said. “The market is not a gambling casino completely…There are people in this market that do have an edge, and you have so many people out there that really are gambling.”

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