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James Biden abandons UK energy venture after White House review

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President Joe Biden’s brother James has abandoned a clean-energy project in the UK after a White House review for potential conflicts of interest. 

James Biden established an investment vehicle in May, with a UK corporate lawyer and two Argentine businessmen. But he ditched the plan just weeks later following a White House assessment under stringent new rules introduced by Joe Biden’s administration. The company now lies dormant.

James Biden and his wife, Sara Jones Biden, launched 2BT, a UK limited liability partnership, with Reed Smith partner Peter Teare. 2BT established another vehicle, Shelbourne Partners, which aimed to “explore prospective investment opportunities, particularly in the clean-energy sector”, according to Teare.

Weeks after launching Shelbourne, and following a White House review of James Biden’s plans, Teare said the group had abandoned the project.

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The White House counsel’s office review of James Biden’s planned UK business is part of an ethics regime introduced by the new US administration and designed to draw a line between President Biden’s approach to his family’s financial interests and that of his predecessor, Donald Trump.

The new procedures mean that President Biden’s family members should discuss potential business engagements or deals with their own lawyers first, then if needed inform the White House counsel. After the White House offers its advice on whether to proceed, the family members make the final decision. The rules are designed to ensure that the president’s family members have no conflicts of interest with US government matters. 

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A White House official said: “The president adopted ethics rules and standards for his administration that surpass those of any other administration in history, and include standards for his relatives.”

James Biden could not be reached for comment.

The White House declined to comment on the exact timing of the review of James Biden’s planned UK business, or its conclusions. Ethics reviews by the White House counsel are understood to take some time. The Financial Times contacted the White House for comment on Friday about James Biden’s UK business plans.

James Biden has invested in a string of business deals in the US, including a controversial attempt to buy the hedge fund Paradigm in 2006 with his nephew, Hunter. 2BT was his first listing as a director in the UK, according to Companies House filings.

In January, Joe Biden told the news channel CNN that his family would “not be involved in any business, any enterprise that is in conflict with or appears to be in conflict, where there’s appropriate distance from, the presidency and government”.

Shelbourne is jointly owned by 2BT and International Capital Investment, another new LLP launched by Argentine lawyer Ricardo Nicolás Mallo Huergo and José Luis Manzano, a former Argentine congress member and associate of James Biden. Huergo and Manzano are, respectively, general counsel and president of the Buenos Aires private equity firm, Integra Capital.

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According to Huergo, the two Argentines and James Biden are “longtime” acquaintances. Manzano served in the Argentine cabinet under President Carlos Menem and founded the media group Grupo America, the country’s second-largest media company. According to Spanish media reports, James Biden attended Manzano’s wedding in 2015.

Both Argentines already invest in traditional energy projects including oil and gas via Integra. Huergo told the FT that the new business planned to fund projects focused on the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

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