Two images with captions comparing Tillerson and Kerry

Rex Tillerson image caption:

I'm Rex Tillerson. I own $240 million worth of ExxonMobil stock. Everyone is demanding that I divest my stake in this company in order to serve as Secretary of State under President Trump.

John Kerry image caption:

I'm John Kerry. My wife, Teresa Heinz, is the heiress to the Heinz Ketchup fortune. She is worth between $750 million and $1.2 billion. No one batted an eye at me being named Secretary of State under Barack Obama, or being elected US Senator, for that matter. It's just ketchup money.

Is it true that John Kerry's wife didn't have to divest her massive fortune into some type of blind trust while Kerry was Secretary of State?

  • 1
    This might be more apt for politicsSE. I don't know all the rules, but I don't think the sec has to divest of EVERYTHING (especially of wife's money), although Kerry did divest from a ton of investments.
    – rougon
    Feb 4, 2017 at 18:35
  • 1
    @rougon - the claim (at least implied claim) isn't that he didn't divest, or had to divest, but that nobody demanded that he divest (see the wording of the first panel - it talks about demands, not rules).
    – user5341
    Feb 4, 2017 at 19:36
  • @jamesqf The relevant law treats financial interests of minor children and spouse on the same level as those of the employee.
    – DavePhD
    Feb 4, 2017 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


The relevant law is 18 U.S.C. § 208: Acts affecting a personal financial interest:

a) Except as permitted by subsection (b) hereof, whoever, being an officer or employee of the executive branch of the United States Government, or of any independent agency of the United States, a Federal Reserve bank director, officer, or employee, or an officer or employee of the District of Columbia, including a special Government employee, participates personally and substantially as a Government officer or employee, through decision, approval, disapproval, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation, or otherwise, in a judicial or other proceeding, application, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest, or other particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he, his spouse, minor child, general partner, organization in which he is serving as officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee, or any person or organization with whom he is negotiating or has any arrangement concerning prospective employment, has a financial interest—

Shall be subject to the penalties set forth in section 216 of this title.

No one is required to have a blind trust or divest. The requirement is that the federal employee does not participate in a decision affecting the personal finances of himself or his spouse.


No, it is not true that "no-one batted an eye".

An independent review by the Office of Government Ethics warned about conflicts of interest, and both John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry responded by divesting some investments. Kerry also pledged to avoid participating in topics that had a risk of conflicts of interest.

Senator John F. Kerry and his wife, seeking to avoid possible conflicts of interest, will sell nearly 100 separate investments in the United States and abroad if the Massachusetts Democrat is confirmed as secretary of state.


The decision to relinquish the assets within 90 days of taking the oath of office came after an independent review by the Office of Government Ethics determined that some of the Kerrys’ vast international holdings could run afoul of ethics laws in his new Cabinet post.

It was also reported by Reuters and Politico.

(The part of the question suggesting Heinz Kerry should need to put her whole fortune in a "blind trust" isn't notable.)

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