Forbes: Wilbur Ross overstated wealth by $2 billion

Forbes: Wilbur Ross overstated wealth by $2 billion
© Greg Nash

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossWeather forecasters predict up to 15 major storms this hurricane season Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 'time out' on facial recognition tech | DHS asks cybersecurity staff to volunteer for border help | Judge rules Qualcomm broke antitrust law | Bill calls for 5G national security strategy Tech gets brief reprieve from Trump's Huawei ban MORE purposefully overstated his wealth by about $2 billion in statements to Forbes Magazine, according to the publication's editors.

The business news magazine accused Ross of lying about "more than $2 billion" for more than a decade in order to be placed on The Forbes 400 and to "bolster his standing" among the business community in a way that created opportunities for himself.

In an article Tuesday, Forbes's Dan Alexander explains that Ross lied about placing the money in trusts for his family during his nomination process in order to remain on the list.

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"After one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer," Alexander writes. "That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004."

When asked about documentation for the trusts, Ross refused Forbes's request, citing "privacy issues."

Ross was initially placed on the Forbes billionaire list in 2004 with a net worth listed at $1 billion. His business colleagues told the magazine that the 2004 number was inflated to almost four times Ross's actual wealth.

"Everyone that I knew that worked with Wilbur knew it wasn't true," one of Ross's former colleagues said.

In a response to a set of questions from Forbes, the Commerce Department called any misunderstanding "unfortunate" and refused to provide additional information, citing Ross's following of financial disclosure rules.

"Secretary Ross has filed all required disclosures in accordance with the law and in consultation with both legal counsel and ethics officials at the Department of Commerce and Office of Government Ethics. As we have said before, any misunderstanding from your previous conversation with Secretary Ross is unfortunate," the agency said in a statement.

According to Forbes, Ross had been including money that belonged to investors in his funds in his estimates of his own net worth to the magazine. The discrepancy was noticed in 2013, but Ross continued to promise the magazine proof of his alleged billions that never arrived.

"Ross strung us along, leading us to believe he would provide evidence of his assets, but never did. Just months later, he was insisting that he was even richer, and Forbes continued to largely fall for it," Alexander writes.

After questioning the Commerce Department about the alleged $2 billion that Ross said he placed in trusts between the November 2016 election and Ross confirmation, the agency released a statement confirming it never happened.

"Contrary to the report in Forbes, there was no major asset transfer to a trust in the period between the election and Secretary Ross's confirmation," the statement read.