Kerry disclosed the investments in his latest filing with the Office of Government Ethics.
The report shows his wife, Teresa Heinz, heiress of Heinz Ketchup, has holdings worth “at least one million” in Teng Yue Partners, a hedge fund that specializes in connecting investors to Chinese government-controlled projects and funds.
It is likely that Heinz’s stake in Teng is worth more than just $1 million, since Teng’s funds are required to have a minimum investment of $5 million.
Former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter told the Daily Mail that Heinz’s investments pose a serious conflict of interest for Kerry, who, as the Biden administration’s climate change czar, must regularly work with the Chinese government.
“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 [a conflict of interest law for government officials],” Painter explained.
The Chinese government could easily look to use Heinz’s investments against Kerry and, through Kerry, the U.S., Painter said.
“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,” he said. “It could go either way. The Chinese could promise to help those companies if he took it easy on them. So while I wouldn’t necessarily say she has to sell them right away, this needs to be kept on the radar screen.”
In a 2013 ethics disclosure, Kerry claimed he was not a beneficiary of his wife’s trust.
His 2021 filing similarly says that neither he nor his wife “have any control over the management of the trust investments.”
However, this is not the first time the Heinz family has been criticized over its involvement with Chinese investments. Teresa Heinz’s son and Kerry’s step-son, Christopher Heinz, was at the center of a controversy last year after it became clear his private equity firm, Rosemont Seneca, was involved in the Chinese purchase of a U.S. aircraft parts manufacturer. President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was also involved in Rosemont Seneca, according to emails obtained from a laptop allegedly abandoned by Hunter Biden.