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Fact check: Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Mitt Romney do not have sons on boards of energy companies doing business in Ukraine

Posts claiming that the sons of U.S. President Joe Biden, Senator Mitt Romney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry “are all on the board of directors for energy companies doing business in Ukraine” have been flagged by Facebook in its efforts to combat online misinformation. The claim is false, although Biden’s son Hunter previously held such a position.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here , here and here .

HUNTER BIDEN

During the 2020 campaign for the White House, Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden became a focus of attacks from former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, who questioned potential conflicts of interest from Hunter’s position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma at the time his father was vice president to Democratic President Barack Obama (here).

As Reuters reported in October 2019, interviews with more than a dozen people, including executives and former prosecutors in Ukraine, paint a picture of Hunter Biden as a director who provided advice on legal issues, corporate finance and strategy during his five-year term on the board, which ended in April of 2019 (here). 

They also said his presence on the board did not protect the company from criminal investigations launched by Ukrainian authorities against its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. The allegations concerned tax violations, money-laundering and licenses given to Burisma during the period when Zlochevsky was a minister.

In June 2020, an audit of thousands of old case files by Ukrainian prosecutors found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Hunter Biden (here).

On Dec. 8, 2020, Hunter Biden announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware was investigating his tax affairs (here).

NANCY PELOSI’S SON

According to his LinkedIn page (here), Paul Pelosi, Jr., the only son of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is currently a manager at the phytopharmaceutical company ST Biosciences (www.stbiosciences.com/), a board member of the San Francisco – Shanghai Sister City Committee (here) and a business development executive at the Corporate Governance Initiative (here).

The claim that Paul Pelosi was on the board of directors for an energy company doing business in Ukraine may stem from his time on the board of Viscoil, a U.S. energy company based in Southern California.

As explained here by PolitiFact in 2019, Viscoil, which was focused on U.S. business, dissolved and reformed in Singapore under a new name, according to Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for the Speaker. Hammill told PolitiFact that Mr. Pelosi was not involved in the new entity.

Reuters could not reach Hammill for comment on the recent recirculation of these claims.

In addition to PolitiFact, FactCheck.org (here), Snopes (here) and USA Today (here) all rated claims of Paul Pelosi’s connection to a Ukrainian gas company as false.

JOHN KERRY’S STEPSONS

Former Secretary of State and current Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has two daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry (here), and three stepsons, Henry John Heinz IV, Christopher Drake Heinz and Andre Heinz (here).

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Henry John Heinz IV “has maintained the lowest public profile of the three brothers over the years,” working as a blacksmith in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (here).

Christopher Heinz currently serves on the Heinz Endowment’s board of directors (here). According to the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C. thinktank where he is on the board of advisers, he was formerly senior vice president at PNC Bank and “the leader of its external Fintech investment program and strategy development” (here).

Andre Heinz is an environmentalist (here) and the current chairman of Heinz Endowments (here), and co-founder of the Sustainable Technologies Fund, a cleantech venture fund in Sweden (obvious.com/team/andre-heinz).

Claims that a son of John Kerry is involved in a Ukrainian energy company likely have origins in Christopher Heinz’s former business partnership with Hunter Biden. As explained here  by Reuters, Christopher Heinz joined Hunter Biden and Devon Archer, one of his classmates at Yale University, in co-founding financial services company Rosemont Seneca Partners in 2009.

In 2012, Hunter Biden and Archer talked to Chinese private equity investor Jonathan Li about joining forces on a fund that would invest Chinese capital - and possibly capital from other countries - outside of China, the New Yorker magazine reported in a profile of Hunter Biden in July 2019 (here).

Li, Archer and others agreed in 2013 to establish the fund, called BHR Partners, and Hunter Biden joined as an unpaid member of the board, the New Yorker said.

An archived version of BHR’s website from 2014 says BHR was formed in 2013 by two Chinese asset managers alongside Rosemont Seneca Partners and Thornton Group LLC.

A spokesperson for Christopher Heinz told The Hill in March 2018 that Heinz had "no operating role" in Rosemont Seneca, and that he had no involvement in any of the firm's dealings in China (here).

By mentioning “John Kerry’s son,” the social media posts likely conflate Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine with his establishment of BHR Partners, a fund linked to an investment firm that Heinz co-founded but is no longer part of.

As reported here by the Washington Post in September 2019, Archer and Biden’s decision to join the board of Burisma in 2014 “raised serious concerns” for Christopher Heinz, “who told Archer that joining Burisma was a bad idea” due to “reports of corruption in Ukraine, geopolitical risks and general questions about appearance.”

Chris Bastardi, a spokesperson for Heinz, told the Post that Heinz “strongly warned Mr. Archer that working with Burisma was unacceptable,” and that the move “was a major catalyst for Mr. Heinz ending his business relationships with Mr. Archer and Mr. Biden.”

Reuters did not receive a response to its request for comment from Kerry’s communications team.

MITT ROMNEY’S SONS

Republican Senator Mitt Romney has five sons: Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben and Craig Romney (here).

Tagg is the co-founder of Solamere Capital, a Boston-based private equity investment firm where he serves as managing partner (here). Matt is a managing director at a Salt Lake City real estate firm called Sundance Bay (here). Josh is the president and founder of the Romney group, a real estate investment company in Salt Lake City ( here , here ). Ben is a radiologist in Murray, Utah (here). Craig is the director of asset management for Sundance Bay (here).

Reuters could not find an explanation for posts linking any of Romney’s sons to an energy company doing business in Ukraine.

When reached for comment, Arielle Mueller, press secretary for Senator Romney, told Reuters via email: “We don’t comment on fake news from random internet trolls.”

VERDICT

Partly false. Though Hunter Biden formerly sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, he no longer does. The sons/stepsons of Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Mitt Romney are not, and have not been, board members of energy companies doing business in Ukraine.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here  . 

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