CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross should be investigated for possible violations of the STOCK Act or other insider trading laws and false statements to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), according to criminal and ethics complaints filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and OGE.
Knowing that the New York Times was close to publishing a story about his dealings with Navigator Holdings and its ties to Putin’s closest allies, Ross appears to have engaged in a short sale of Navigator stock, in order to profit from a dropping stock price. The STOCK Act prohibits executive branch employees from using “nonpublic information derived from such person’s position as an executive branch employee or gained from the performance of such person’s official responsibilities as a means for making a private profit.” In addition, securities laws prohibit executing trades based on inside information, such as information obtained by virtue of one’s government position.
“Secretary Ross’s actions appear to demonstrate a knowing and repeated disregard for his ethics obligations,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “The seriousness of his actions, potentially including using his position for insider trading, warrants an immediate and thorough investigation.”
Federal law prohibits anyone from knowingly and willfully making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch. There is substantial evidence that Secretary Ross may have knowingly and willfully made false or fraudulent statements when he certified to OGE that he had completed divestiture of all required assets, then six weeks later sold substantial amounts of Invesco, Ltd. stock — an asset he was required to divest.
“Cabinet officials should not be lying about their ethics obligations, nor should they be using information they gleaned from their position for personal profit,” Bookbinder said. “The possibility that Secretary Ross may have tried to profit from his own ethics scandal takes this into uncharted territory.”