New government documents show that John Kerry's wife, heiress of Heinz Ketchup, has millions of dollars in Chinese investments, leaving Biden's climate change envoy facing an ethical dilemma.
Kerry’s latest filing with the Office of Government Ethics in March shows his wife benefits from an investment of “at least $1 million” in a hedge fund that specializes in private partnerships and investments with Chinese government-controlled funds, the Daily Mail reports.
Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz, is the widow of late senator John Heinz and heiress to the Heinz family fortune, which is estimated to be worth over $750 million.
Kerry often meets with Chinese leaders and diplomats to negotiate with the industrial superpower to cut deals on reducing its carbon footprint.
The former chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, Richard Painter, expressed concerns that the Chinese government could use this as a threatening tactic to pressure Kerry.
“As soon as anyone even hinted that the Chinese government would try to do anything to pull the rug from those companies if he didn’t do what they wanted, at that point it would create a problem for him under US code 208.”
Through her family trusts, Kerry has an over a million dollar interest in Teng Yue Partners, an investment firm specializing in equity investments in China.
One of its major holdings, Transcenta, is a Chinese biotech company recently backed by two Chinese state-owned private equity firms.
SEC filings show 97 percent of the money Teng manages is from “non-United States persons.”
Kerry's filings say his wife's holding is over a million, however, a majority of Teng’s funds have a minimum investment of $5 million.
“Whenever you're negotiating with a country to try to get something done and you have investments in that country, there is that risk that negotiators could try to threaten to hold those investments hostage in the course of the negotiations,” Painter told the Daily Mail. “It could go either way. The Chinese could promise to help those companies if he took it easy on them.”
“I think it would be reasonable for him to be asked on a periodic basis whether he has any awareness of any risk to any of those companies. If he does, either she sells the companies or he stands down from climate negotiations. I think that's absolutely critical,” Painter added.