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Watchdog firm finds another troubling conflict of interest in Hunter Biden's post at Burisma

Biden was paid as a board member AND as a consultant

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for World Food Program USA

Hunter Biden was paid both as member of the governing board and as a consultant to company management in his post at Burisma Holdings, an arrangement that is prohibited in the United States, an independent research firm reported Tuesday.

Biden also received more than 12 times the comparable pay for board members at similarly sized companies.

The findings come from Watchdog Research and were posted in a RealClearInvestigations report.

According to the report:

The authors, Watchdog Research principles Brian Lawe and John Cheffers, say arrangements such as Hunter Biden's — being a corporate governance monitor while also a paid consultant to company management — are prohibited in the United States. Federal securities law forbids anyone from serving as an independent board member if they "accept directly or indirectly any consulting, advisory, or other compensatory fee."

"Obviously, U.S. law does not apply to a private foreign entity because that company is not subject to federal securities law," Lawe and Cheffers write. But, they say, "by accepting 'consulting' payments AND board compensation, Hunter Biden was potentially breaking a cardinal rule created to promote good governance and stop corruption."

Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden's son, was hired to the board at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, a month after his father was appointed to political advisory responsibilities over Ukraine in March 2014.

Despite Biden having had no experience in the oil and gas industry or in serving on boards of for-profit businesses, the company paid him an uncharacteristically high salary — "records show 18 months in which two payments of $83,333 per month were paid" to Hunter Biden's company for "consulting services," according to Reuters.

The payments amount to nearly $1 million per year each for Biden and his business partner and co-Burisma board member Devon Archer.

Watchdog Research, citing a 2017 Harvard study on board compensation, says that the payout amounts to more than 12 times the comparable pay, or more for Biden in a month than board members at similarly-sized companies would be paid in a year.

The Watchdog Research report notes how this puts Hunter Biden between a rock and a hard place: "If he received the money for consulting, then it would be hard to argue that he was overpaid, but it would be easy to argue that his claims of being an independent director 'focused on governance' are a sham."

In order to be qualified as an independent director, as Biden claims he was for Burisma, "the director can have no 'material' relationship with the company prior to serving on the board," according to the New York Stock Exchange's guidance.

This appears not to be the case for Biden, as his attorney George Mesires previously said in a statement that Biden was already "advising Burisma on its corporate reform initiatives" in his capacity at the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner before being asked to join the board.

Also, in that same ABC News interview last month where Biden claimed that his role at Burisma was simply to provide "corporate governance," he also admitted that he would "probably not" have been offered the seat on Burisma's board if his father had not been vice president.

The Bidens' involvement with Burisma caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requested an investigation into the matter.

It was this phone call that led to the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump, proponents of the inquiry claiming that Trump ordering an investigation into his political opponents, and possibly withholding military aid to Ukraine as a quid pro quo, amount to an impeachable offense.

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