Government ethics watchdog rejects Trump commerce chief’s financial disclosure form over inaccuracies

Greg Nash

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is refusing to certify Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s 2018 financial disclosure form, saying the official violated his ethics agreement by reporting inaccurate information about his stock holdings.

OGE Director Emory Rounds wrote in a Feb. 15 letter to the Commerce Department’s top ethics official that Ross incorrectly reported on his disclosure form that he sold stock he held in a bank at the time.

“OGE is declining to certify Secretary Ross’s 2018 financial disclosure report because that report was not accurate and he was not in compliance with his ethics agreement at the time of the report,” Rounds wrote in the letter, obtained by The Washington Post.

{mosads}It was reported in December that Ross had filed a disclosure form saying he had previously divested from the BankUnited stocks, though in reality he did not sell the stocks until October 2018. The report raised conflict of interest concerns, and the acting head of the Office of Government Ethics admonished him at the time.

Ross, who was confirmed to lead the Commerce Department in Feb. 2017, was required to divest from the holdings within 90 days of confirmation.

Ross said in a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday that he mistakenly believed that he sold the shares earlier, and sold them after realizing his mistake.

Ross told the paper that the shares were worth $3,700, well below the $15,000 threshold for a possible conflict of interest.

“Therefore, even if a BankUnited matter had come before the Department [of Commerce] while I owned the shares — and I have not been made aware of any such matter — I would not have been disqualified from working on it,” Ross said.

Tags commerce secretary Conflict of interest ethics violations financial disclosure Wilbur Ross

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