Hunter Biden business partner's free financial services to father raise new ethics concerns

Schwerin’s new testimony could raise questions about the ethics of a vice president receiving free accounting services from a business partner of his son.
Joe Biden, Abraham Lincoln, June 23, 2021, Washington, D.C.

A newly released transcript from the House Oversight Committee reviewed by Just the News shows that one of Hunter Biden’s ex-business partners testified that he prepared documents for Joe Biden’s taxes and helped to pay the vice president’s bills from 2009 to 2016 free of charge.

This arrangement appears to be absent from then-Vice President Biden’s financial disclosures, which may raise further questions in the House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into the president and his opaque relationships with his son's business partners. For his part, Biden has repeatedly denied having any relationship with his son's businesses or his son's partners.  

Despite those denials, Eric Schwerin, a longtime business partner to Hunter Biden, said he acted as a financial adviser to Joe Biden from 2009 to 2017, and had access to Joe Biden’s bank accounts and was a cosigner on at least one account.  He told congressional investigators he provided tax assistance and financial services to the then-vice president as a “favor for a friend” and performed the services for free, an arrangement that may run afoul of financial disclosure laws, experts told Just the News.

Hunter Biden’s ex-partner told investigators his work for Joe Biden did not take up much time on an annual basis compared to his other work for Rosemont Seneca Advisors. “It didn't take a lot of time in that a lot of things were very automated. I mean, a lot of it was by autopay,” Schwerin said of his help paying bills and managing the vice president’s day-to-day finances. Schwerin insisted that while he did have interactions with Joe Biden, he did not "take any actions to benefit his son." 

Nonetheless, Schwerin helped accountants prepare Joe Biden’s taxes until his final year in office. “[The] real work probably came in tax season and financial disclosure statement time. But since, again, most of it was online, it really just involved printing something off, emailing it to the accountant,” Schwerin told investigators.

“And was there any discussion about you being paid for this work?” investigators asked.

“I don't recall any,” Schwerin said.

Investigators later prompted: “It would seem that, given your experience and how much you do charge a typical client for your services, this seems to be quite the service for the Vice President.”

“Well, I mean, I looked at it as doing a favor for a friend, and this was very different from the work that we did on a daily basis with Rosemont Seneca Advisors, and as I said, it didn't take that much time,” Schwerin said.

You can read Schwerin’s testimony below:

“Joe Biden claimed there was an ‘absolute wall’ between his government duties and his family’s business yet during his vice presidency he was gifted free bookkeeping services from his son’s business partner. This knocks down the wall and likely crosses ethical standards for public officials. We will continue to seek accountability for the Bidens’ corruption," House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., told Just the News.

Schwerin’s free financial services may also raise ethics concerns related to the then-vice president’s financial disclosures. A review by Just the News found that not one of the seven disclosures filed by Joe Biden during his terms in office and publicly posted by the Obama administration report Schwerin’s free services as a gift—a classification a former ethics lawyer told Just the News would likely be necessary if certain conditions were met.

“If you receive a gift over the minimum value for accounting services, other than from a family member, it is my view that it goes on the financial disclosure form,” Richer Painter, Chief White House Ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration told Just the News.

Painter worked on form 278 financial disclosures for President Bush which include reporting requirements for gifts, he explained. He made clear, however, that his assessment is not definitive because there are still unknowns in this case, including whether a Biden family member ever reimbursed Schwerin for these accounting services, an arrangement that would not appear on the forms according to law.

Another reason these services may not have appeared on the forms is if they were valued under the reporting requirement—which was $260 in 2009, the first year Schwerin testified performed these services, according to Vice President Biden’s first disclosure form.

These unanswered questions open further avenues of inquiry in the House Republicans’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.

Norman Eisen, who served in the Obama White House as special counsel and special assistant for ethics and government reform, did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News on Monday about the vice president’s financial disclosures. Likewise, the White House did not immediately respond to an email request for comment from Just the News on Monday.

The Ethics in Government Act, first passed in 1978, established rules to govern financial disclosures in the executive branch, including requirements for the president and the vice president.

According to the law in its amended form, filers are required to disclose “The identity of the source, a brief description, and the value of all gifts aggregating more than the minimal value as established by section 7342(a)(5) of title 5, United States Code, or $250, whichever is greater, received from any source other than a relative of the reporting individual.”

This leaves three explanations for why Schwerin’s “favor” does not appear as a gift on Vice President Biden’s disclosures: either the services are valued under $250; the gift was improperly omitted; or a Biden family member paid Schwerin directly for these services.

Controversy over recent financial disclosures of other federal officer holders stirred when media reports indicated that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received several gifts from billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crowe. Thomas came under scrutiny after a report from left-leaning ProPublica that he had taken a series of trips on Crowe’s private jet without listing them on his financial disclosures. ProPublica has pointedly avoided applying the same questions to largesse shown to Biden.  

The federal judiciary, however, regulates itself, and thus has different rules than the president and vice president, whose requirements have the force of law.