CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—The Inspector General should investigate Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). There are significant questions as to whether Ross properly reported all required financial holdings and transactions, fully divested from conflicting assets and appropriately recused himself from certain trade matters.
Although he told Forbes he had assets worth more than $3 billion, Ross’s financial disclosure report shows assets of only about $700 million. This discrepancy alone raises a question of whether he accurately disclosed all of his reportable assets and income, as the Ethics in Government Act requires. Ross’s disclosure report also reveals apparent omissions and irregularities in his reporting of problematic assets, including the Bank of Cyprus, Diamond S Shipping, and Navigator Holdings Ltd.
“Ross is telling very different stories about his assets,” CREW Communications Director Jordan Libowitz said. “The Inspector General should commence an immediate investigation to find the truth.”
Ross also represented in his ethics agreement that he would divest of all his holdings in the Bank of Cyprus. Despite the agreement, he delayed divesting one part of his Bank of Cyprus stock past the time permitted, and it is not clear if he has properly divested from a second part of his holdings in the bank.
Ross further appears to have violated conflict of interest rules by participating in meetings and policy deliberations involving United States and China trade matters related to assets he held or holds. These include a meeting in mid-July of top U.S. and Chinese business leaders at Commerce Department headquarters that included Ross’s Diamond S Shipping business partner, and his participation in negotiating a trade deal that included a plan to increase natural gas exports from the U.S. to China that could enhance the value of his natural gas exploration holdings and his shipping interests in Navigator Holdings Ltd.
“Taken as a whole, Secretary Ross’s conduct suggests a pattern and practice of ignoring, if not flouting, his legal and ethical obligations to disclose his interests and avoid conflicts of interest and raises concerns about whether he was deliberately trying to obfuscate the value of his extensive assets,” Libowitz said.