The U.S. Commerce Department is reviewing a ban on Tencent Holdings, the parent company of WeChat, issued during the Trump administration. And a government financial disclosure document shows that current Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and her husband own financial stakes in Tencent.
According to the Daily Caller News Foundation, a financial disclosure document filed with the Office of Federal Ethics (OGE) on Jan. 19 shows that Raimondo and her husband, Andrew Moffit, have a financial stake in Tencent worth 21,500 to $44,500 worth of shares in Tencent. The recently confirmed commerce secretary promised to divest from other financial positions because of potential conflicts of interest, but she did not mention pulling her stake in Tencent.
The Biden administration is conducting a broad review of China-related executive orders issued by the previous administration, including one last year that banned U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with Tencent. Biden’s Justice Department in February asked an appeals court to stay a case related to that ban while the administration reviews the action, The Washington Post reported.
In a court filing in February, the DOJ said, according to the WaPo, “With the inauguration of the Biden Administration, the Department of Commerce has begun reviewing a number of recently implemented agency actions, including the (former) Secretary’s ban on the WeChat mobile App in question in this appeal.”
“The Daily Caller said the Federal Ethics Act prohibits government employees from engaging in official business in which they have a financial interest, but Raimondo’s stake in Tencent may be exempt from conflict of interest laws.
Raimondo and Moffitt jointly own shares in two emerging-markets open-ended index funds (ETFs), which consist of several foreign stocks, including Tencent. The total value of the couple’s positions in the two ETFs ranges from $365,000 to $750,000. The total value of the pair’s shares in Tencent could be worth $44,490. No specific amount was provided in OGE’s financial disclosure filing.
Before being confirmed as Commerce Secretary, Raimondo pledged to divest from three health care funds managed by Fidelity, an energy ETF managed by Vanguard and a pharmaceutical ETF managed by BlackRock, citing potential conflicts of interest in future transactions with holdings in any of the funds.
In a Jan. 19 letter to Commerce Department ethics official David Maggi, Raimondo said, “I will not be personally and materially involved in any particular matter that, to my knowledge, has a direct and foreseeable effect on the financial interests of any holding company until I have completed making these divestitures.”
Raimondo did not mention in her letter that the divestiture was to take place with the emerging market ETFs she and her husband own.
Under OGE rules, government officials who own shares in an ETF may be found to have a financial interest in a “specified matter.
However, Scott Amey, general counsel for Project On Government Oversight, said it is unclear whether the emerging markets ETFs owned by Raimondo and Moffitt would be considered a conflict of interest under the law. conflict of interest. Diversified mutual funds, for example, are typically exempt from conflict-of-interest laws.
Unlike health care, energy or pharmaceutical ETFs, emerging market ETFs are diversified across multiple industries. Raimondo’s portfolio of funds, which includes Tencent, may be exempt from conflict of interest laws.
“The best course of action for Raimondo would be to consult with an ethics official to determine if her investments constitute a conflict of interest and to exit if needed.” Emmy told the Daily Caller.
Raimondo was sworn in as U.S. Commerce Secretary on Wednesday (March 3).
“The Commerce Department has a simple but important mission – to drive good-paying jobs, empower entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help American workers and businesses compete.” Raimondo said in a statement.
The Commerce Department did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.