Administration

Financial disclosure reveals Wilbur Ross didn’t divest from all stocks when he said he would

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross still owns stocks that he has twice stated in sworn testimony he divested from, according to a financial disclosure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity

Ross submitted disclosure reports to federal ethics watchdogs in May 2017 and last August saying he had divested from certain stocks, according to the ethics watchdog. However, Ross’ federal filing shows that he did not sell his stock in BankUnited, which was valued at up to $15,000, until October.

{mosads}Ross acknowledged in the October filing he had indeed reported in the past that he had sold the stock, but had done so “based on a mistaken belief that the agent executed my sell order on that date.” 

Ross’s original federal ethics agreement mandated he divest from stocks representing conflicts of interest, including BankUnited, within 90 days of his Senate confirmation.

But the commerce secretary also previously failed to divest in a timely manner from his stocks in Invesco Ltd., which was valued at up to $50 million, Sun Bancorp Inc., the Greenbrier Companies Inc. and Air Lease Corp, according to the Center for Public Integrity. 

David Apol, the acting head of the Office of Government Ethics, sent Ross a stern letter in July admonishing him for disclosures saying he had divested from stocks that he still owned. 

“You have advised both OGE and your DAEO that the various omissions and inaccuracies on your part were inadvertent, 5 and we have no information to contradict that assertion.Unfortunately, even inadvertent errors regarding compliance with your ethical obligations can undermine public trust in both you and the overall ethics program. Furthermore, your actions, including your continued ownership of assets required to be divested in your Ethics Agreement and your opening of short sale positions, could have placed you in a position to run afoul of the primary criminal conflict of interest law,” he wrote. 

Ross responded that he had made “inadvertent errors in completing the divestitures required by my ethics agreement.” He promised to sell off stocks at that point.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the Justice Department in July asking it to investigate Ross’s disclosures. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) also asked the Commerce Department inspector general to assess if Ross ran afoul of conflict of interest laws.

Tags John Thune Ron Wyden Wilbur Ross

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