As top executives from the world's biggest technology companies paraded through Trump Tower for a meeting with the president-elect, one particular participant stood out: Alex Karp.
Unlike the other attendees, like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, who oversee companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars, Karp runs a privately held business valued at $20 billion, one that's hardly known outside of Silicon Valley and Washington.
Karp's company is Palantir Technologies, a Palo Alto, California-based software developer that's backed by the CIA's venture arm and has done work for government agencies including the FBI, the Pentagon and IRS.
Given how much smaller Palantir is than the other companies represented, why was Karp invited to meet with Donald Trump?
The most obvious reason contains little subtlety. Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist and Facebook board member who is part of Trump's transition team, is a co-founder of Palantir and is the company's biggest backer.
Karp's presence may or may not represent an actual conflict of interest, but the appearance of one is hard to deny, according to Norman Eisen, a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic who worked on President Barack Obama's ethics initiatives.