WASHINGTON (AP) — Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder is working to divest his assets from his fast food empire so he can be confirmed to the Cabinet post that enforces protections for American workers, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Puzder is CEO of fast food empire CKE Restaurants Inc., and his spokesman George Thompson said divesting assets is a "complex process" since the company is privately held.
It was the first time that Puzder has acknowledged he is trying to avoid conflicts of interest by fully separating himself from CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns such fast food chains as Hardee's and Carl's Jr.
CKE has said that Puzder would step down as CEO once confirmed.
"I am fully committed to becoming secretary of labor and I am looking forward to my hearing," Puzder said Wednesday in a statement to The Associated Press.
Puzder's nomination has long been assailed by Democrats and their allies who question his fitness for the post.
The nominee has not yet submitted the required ethics paperwork laying out how he intends to avoid conflicts of interest while in office. His confirmation hearing has been postponed indefinitely pending the receipt of that document.
Thompson suggested the delay is due in part to the divestiture process.
Under federal law, that process is overseen by the Office of Government Ethics, which typically requires Cabinet appointees to sell off assets that pose a "substantial" conflict of interest with their official duties. Appointees who divest can also set up a blind trust for those assets, a process which also requires the office's sign off.
Democrats on the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee, which will vote on the nomination, have raised questions about CKE's worker protections on Puzder's watch, releasing complains by workers who say they were shabbily treated. Puzder's company also laid off about 20 employees in 2010 and hired a company in the Philippines to run its technology help desk. Outsourcing is a legal and not uncommon practice for American companies, but one Trump has railed against.
Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.
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