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John Kerry discloses millions in income from finance, energy firms

By Lachlan Markay

John Kerry disclosed millions in income and a massive stock portfolio that he’s liquidated since taking office as President Biden’s special climate envoy, according to a financial filing obtained by Axios on Friday.

Why it matters: Kerry is among the wealthiest members of the Biden administration. He maintains significant influence over U.S. energy and environmental policy as Biden’s climate envoy, a role that comes after he advised a number of firms in the space following his time as secretary of State.

  • The State Department, where Kerry officially works again, says he has divested assets that could pose a conflict of interest, and signed an ethics pledge barring him from participating in specific policymaking decisions that could affect his former clients and employers.

The big picture: Kerry received millions of dollars in salary, consulting fees and honoraria, according to the filing, which covers 2020 and most of January 2021.

  • He drew a $5 million salary from Bank of America. He was tapped as chairman of the bank’s global advisory council months after his tenure as Barack Obama’s second secretary of State.
  • He landed $382,400 in speaking fees from entities including Deutsche Bank, Waste Management and Cornell University.
  • Kerry also reported compensation “in excess of $5,000” for more than a dozen other speeches in 2019, including ones to Barclays, Zurich Insurance and the foundation run by Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk.

Kerry also reported receiving $125,000 in consulting fees from The Rise Fund, an investment firm with a significant renewable energy portfolio, just one of the entities in the energy and environment space to which he reported business ties.

  • Kerry was the advisory board chairman for Climate Finance Partners, which “creates innovative and globally needed finance solutions that address climate change.”
  • He was also the president of the Vietnam Sustainable Energy Corporation.
  • In addition, Kerry reported receiving more than $5,000 in compensation as an advisor to the New York-based investment firm Ripplewood, which specializes in leveraged buyouts. The firm is run by his friend Tim Collins.

Kerry’s huge stock portfolio was largely held through a trust affiliated with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the Heinz food processing fortune.

  • He reported liquidating between $4.2 million and $15 million in stock holdings last month.
  • Federal ethics rules could permit Kerry to defer capital gains taxes on those sales by reinvesting the money in “permitted” assets such as treasury bonds or exchange-traded funds. It was not immediately clear whether Kerry had done so or planned to.

What they’re saying: “The State Department’s Ethics Office reviewed Special Presidential Envoy Kerry’s assets and investments upon his appointment to identify holdings that could pose a significant risk of a conflict of interest,” a State Department spokesperson told Axios.

  • “Special Presidential Envoy Kerry agreed to divest the assets identified by the Ethics Office and has done so.”