Washington: Concerned that their personal finances might become a political liability once again, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in April sold the millions of dollars of stocks held by their blind trust (a trust in which the executors have full discretion over the assets, and the trust beneficiaries have no knowledge of the trust’s holdings) after becoming aware that those investments included oil and pharmaceutical companies, military contractors and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., among others, their aides said.
The Clintons liquidated the trust—valued at $5-25 million (Rs20.5-102.5 crore)—and are leaving the proceeds for now in cash in an effort to eliminate any chance of ethical problems or political embarrassment from their holdings as Hillary Clinton runs for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, their advisors said.
By disposing of all their stocks, Hillary Clinton was seeking to avoid potential conflicts of interest that might arise from legislation that she votes on in the Senate, as well as avoid holding financial stakes in companies and industries—such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the owner of Fox News—that could draw criticism from some Democratic voters.
Clinton automatically became aware of her investments because of a US government directive this spring that she, as a presidential candidate, had to dissolve her blind trust and disclose all of her assets to the public.
The decision by the Clintons to sell their stock carried a financial cost, according to their advisors and new personal financial documents made available on Thursday. The couple will owe “substantial amounts” in capital gains taxes, an advisor said, and are giving up the potentially higher returns from stocks for the safety but generally lower returns of holding their money in various forms of savings accounts.
According to the financial disclosure documents, the couple's total net worth falls between $10 million and $50 million.
The disclosure forms reveal new details about Bill Clinton’s investments and advisory role with funds in Yucaipa Cos Llc., a privately held California equity firm controlled by Ron Burkle, one of Bill Clinton’s best friends and one of Hillary Clinton’s top fundraisers. Bill Clinton has assets of $100,001 to $250,000 in one Yucaipa investment, Garrard Worldwide Holdings Inc., a retail jeweller with a flagship store in London. He has an additional $15,001 to $50,000 in Brazilian Renewable Energy Co. Ltd, which produces sugarcane-based ethanol in Brazil. Bill Clinton also has $15,001 to $50,000 in Easy Bill Ltd, an India-based company that facilitates electronic transactions and business services for Indians.
Besides investments, Bill Clinton earned about $10 million in paid speeches in 2006, continuing a pattern since he left office, of earning large sums through speeches and other activities in order to help pay off legal bills and cover the couple's expenses. Hillary Clinton earned $350,025 in royalties for her autobiography, Living History.
The Clintons sold the stock as they prepared to disclose their holdings under government ethics rules for presidential candidates. Until getting ready to release the holdings in the blind trust, the Clintons did not know what stocks and other assets it contained. But the rules did not require the Clintons to sell the stock, according to their advisors.
Most of the Clintons' blind trust investments are a broad cross-section of Fortune-500 companies, but also include several corporations that, Clinton advisors say, neither Bill Clinton nor Hillary Clinton would have chosen.
The Clintons had investments in several pharmaceutical companies, including Abbott Labs, Amgen, Idec, Genentech, Genzyme, Novartis, Pfizer, and Wyeth; the assets in each company ranged from $100,001 to $250,000. The trust also had assets in BP Amoco ($50,001 to $100,000), Chevron Corp. ($15,001 to $50,000), and Exxon Mobil Corp. ($100,001 to $250,000), as well as common stock in Raytheon and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ($100,001 to $250,000 in each).