Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Isn’t Really a Billionaire, Forbes Says
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is under scrutiny for an investment in a shipping company tied to a Russian oligarch, is under the microscope once again. This time it’s over how much Ross is actually worth.
On Tuesday, Forbes published a report claiming that Ross, described as a billionaire on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest people since 2004, has misled the magazine about his net worth.
The new list, published online last month, left Ross off for the first time in 13 years, because his net worth is allegedly below $ 700 million, based on a federal financial disclosure form that he filed following his nomination to commerce secretary earlier this year.
Last year, Forbes listed his wealth at $ 2.9 billion, a number Ross allegedly claimed was low at the time.
Ross had argued to Forbes that he had shifted $ 2 billion in assets into trusts that he had transferred to his family sometime between President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016 and Ross’ confirmation in February 2017. However, citing privacy, he had declined to provide any documentation to Forbes to prove that claim.
So Forbes went about searching for Ross’s “missing $ 2 billion.”
“And after one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer: That money never existed,” Forbes wrote. “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.”
In the article, Forbes mentioned the initial $ 1 billion in wealth it estimated for Ross in 2004. A reporter allegedly conflated Ross’s worth with money that had actually come from investors—and Ross had never corrected him.
“Ross was technically the beneficial owner of nearly $ 1 billion worth of the stock,” Forbes said. “But most of that belonged to his investors, not Ross personally.”
From there, Forbes claims that the numbers kept growing. Fortune contacted the Commerce Department about the secretary, but we have yet to hear back. Prior to publishing the recent article, Forbes said it had sent detailed questions to the department and received this statement:
“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.”
About the alleged $ 2 billion transfer, the department claims 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,” according to its statement to Forbes.
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