John Kerry Held Up to $1m in Noble Energy Stock

As Israel prepares to move forward with a compromise deal over its natural gas reserves, website claims Kerry held stocks in key monopoly partner; Kerry had in the past pressured Netanyahu to resolve gas dispute.

AP

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly held up to $1 million in Noble Energy stocks as of 2013, his asset declaration revealed and opensecrets.org reported.

The news came as Israel's security cabinet was expected to approve a compromise deal over Israel's natural gas monopoly – owned by Noble Energy and Delek – thus sidestepping Israel's Antitrust Authority's demand to break up the group. The issue has been highly contentious in Israel, with some demanding the state nationalize a large portion of the reserves.  

The report raises concerns regarding Kerry involvement in the local gas market. In his capacity as the U.S. secretary of state, Kerry has in the past spoken with Israeli officials about resolving the dispute over the ownership of Israel's natural gas resources, and reportedly worked to help broker an export deal between Israel's Leviathan gas field and Jordan and Egypt.

According to the Open Secrets website, as of 2013, Kerry held $501,002 to $1,015,000 in Noble Energy stocks. According to Kerry's declaration of assets, the secretary of state also held stocks in 23 other energy firms.

Some seven months ago, Kerry called Netanyahu after Israel's antitrust commissioner called on the state to back out of the compromise deal with the energy companies, and reportedly told the prime minister that “It is important for all countries to have a strong investment climate, including a consistent and predictable regulatory framework.”

According to a report from the same time, then-State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke explained U.S. policy regarding Israel's natural gas: "We continue to engage and we support all parties to move forward with the natural gas deal signed between Noble Energy and entities in Jordan and Egypt We strongly believe that these deals would enhance energy security in the region."

A source close to the deal with Jordan told The Marker in the past that "the person working behind the scenes and pushing this deal forward is the American secretary of state." According to the source, "Kerry worked to advance the deal to bolster the axis of moderate states in the region" and met with the different parties and "urged them to reach a deal. The U.S. support was felt throughout the process – for them, a deal would be a stabilizing force."

Noble and Delek, which are operating drilling operations in Israel's deep-sea gas reserves, are expected to remain a monopoly even after a comprise was reached between the government and the firms' private owners after the latter threatened to take Israel to court for backtracking on its commitments.

Under the plan drafted by finance, infrastructure and justice ministries officials as well as the Prime Minister’s Office, Israel will “forgive” the companies forming the natural gas monopoly, Delek and Noble Energy, for allegedly acting in restraint of trade, contrary to the antitrust law.

In exchange the government will try to enforce restraining moves on the monopoly. Delek and Noble Energy have been conducting a campaign for a long time to soften the moves against them. They threatened that if the moves are forced on them unilaterally they will stop developing the gas reserves off Israel’s shores and may even take legal steps against Israel.