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Some Donald Trump Nominees Face Stiff, and Costly, Confirmation Battles

President-elect Donald Trump has so far appointed five billionaires and half a dozen multimillionaires to serve in his administration. Their vast wealth could come in handy as they reset their financial portfolios to join the ranks of public servants.

Consider this: Henry Paulson, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chief executive worth about $127 million when President George W. Bush tapped him as treasury secretary in 2006, spent about as much on professional fees to comply with federal ethics and conflicts rules as he earned during his 2½ years in the administration, according to a person involved in the effort.

“Some of these folks are going to have to leave a lot of money on the table,” said Doug Graham, who served as a vetting adviser to the Office of Presidential Personnel from 2012 until 2015. “There are going to be a lot of tax attorneys working overtime this break to try to get them ready for their January hearings.”

The Trump appointees’ vast financial holdings mean they face what is likely to be one of the most arduous and expensive Senate confirmation processes in recent political history, during which they will be required to disclose their financial holdings and divest themselves of any assets that could present a potential conflict of interest with their new posts.

Mr. Trump’s picks for his cabinet so far have a collective net worth of close to $10 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Forbes magazine’s estimates and financial-disclosure data.

Ethics officials “have some experience with people with very complicated financial situations, but that’s not the norm,” said Steven Rattner, a multimillionaire who in 2009 spent $400,000 on legal fees to prepare for accepting a position in the Treasury department. “Most people in the government are not people with the kind of wealth of the Trump people.”

Wilbur Ross Jr. and Steven Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s respective picks to head the Commerce and Treasury departments, will face some of the most stringent divestiture requirements given the broad purview of those positions.

The Senate Finance Committee, which vets nominees for three cabinet...