John Kerry, the Biden administration's climate czar, made millions off of his stock in various companies in the energy industry before taking his current post, according to financial disclosures.
The former Secretary of State divested his portfolio to avoid conflicts on interest upon becoming President Joe Biden's Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
An ABC News analysis of Kerry's filings found, while he substantially lowered his financial interests in the energy sector in recent years, Kerry owned millions of dollars in stock in oil and gas companies during his time in Congress and in the Obama administration.
The analysis shows Kerry recently had a stake in a minimum of three dozen companies connected to the energy industry, including the oil and gas, electric, and nuclear sectors, worth anywhere from $204,000 to $960,000. He also held high-ranking posts on various firms and entities that his climate policies may now regulate, including chairman of the advisory board for Climate Finance Partners, and president of the Vietnam Sustainable Energy Corporation.
Axios noted, Kerry's financial disclosures last month reported him liquidating between $4.2 million and $15 million.
Most of Kerry's income from the last year came from his position as chair of Bank of America's Global Advisory Council, which earned him a $5 million salary. He also made more than $300,000 from speaking roles with various foundations, educational institutions and corporations, and $125,000 as a consultant to the "social impact" investment project the Rise Fund. He reported earning between $15 million and $65 million from various investments over the past year, mostly in dividends and capital gains made by divesting shares. He also received a $1 million loan from the investment bank BNY Mellon, but most of his holdings are in a trust that belongs to his wife's family, which controls the Heinz food processing company.
A State Department spokesperson told ABC and Axios: "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. Special Presidential Envoy Kerry agreed to divest the assets identified by the Ethics Office and has done so."
Delaney Marsco, the senior legal counsel of ethics at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told the news network that "conflicts arise when someone acts in a way that affects their financial interest; divesting removes the financial interest part of the equation."
Marsco said, while it is not unusual for a public servant with complex financial holdings to have conflict of interest concerns, Kerry ought to "be recusing anytime even the appearance of a conflict arises," "constantly consulting with ethics officials when he thinks there could be an issue," and "mindful of all the ethics rules that may apply to any former client he may have from his previous work."
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