Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to divest himself from his private company holdings upon entering government, according to a new investigative report from Forbes Magazine.
After being nominated, Ross promised to divest from his investment holdings upon entering office. This earned him praise from senators in both parties, and he was easily confirmed.
“You have really made a very personal sacrifice,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “Your service has resulted in your divesting yourself of literally hundreds of millions of dollars.”
In November of 2017, Ross sent a letter, confirming his divestments, to the federal Office of Government Ethics. In the letter he said that he had divested himself of everything he promised.
But according to Forbes that was not true. In their investigation they found that:
- “Ross still owns an interest in companies co-owned by the Chinese government, a shipping firm tied to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, a Cypriot bank reportedly caught up in the Robert Mueller investigation and a huge player in an industry Ross is now investigating.”
- “Rather than dump them all, the commerce secretary sold some of his interests to Goldman Sachs – and, according to Ross himself, put others in a trust for his family members. He continued to deal with China, Russia and others while evidently knowing that his family’s interests were tied to those countries.”
- “Five days before reports surfaced last fall that Ross was connected to cronies of Vladimir Putin, through a shipping firm called Navigator Holdings, the secretary of commerce, who likely knew about the reporting, shorted stock in the Kremlin-linked company, positioning himself to make money on the investment when share prices dropped.”
- “Ross illegally submitted a sworn statement to federal officials in November saying he divested of everything he had promised he would—even though he still held more than $10 million worth of stock in financial firm Invesco, his former employer. He also continued to hold a short position in a bank called Sun Bancorp, a company he had promised to divest.”
Ross has maintained that he did not lie and he has not broken any laws. Concerning his failure to live up to his promises to divest himself of his investment holdings, the secretary and his office have made no comment.
Although it is not completely clear that Wilbur Ross has done anything illegal, it is very clear that he has broken his promises to the U.S. Senate, and he is acting unethically.
Since he is in business with both China and Russian companies, his independence as a government official is being called into question. This is critically important at a time when the U.S. is entering into a trade war with China.
Once again, through his cabinet appointments, Donald Trump has shown that he is not “draining the swamp” in Washington but is actually restocking it with people who are more corrupt than ever before.