Forbes Magazine recently uncovered evidence that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has been lying about his wealth for more than a decade. Although he claimed to be worth several billion dollars, Forbes put his net worth at roughly $700 million (still a lot!) and removed him from its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, despite protest from Ross.
Around the same time as the Forbes report, the New York Times reported Ross still had ties to a Russian shipping firm:
After becoming commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr. retained investments in a shipping firm he once controlled that has significant business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law, according to newly disclosed documents.
The shipper, Navigator Holdings, earns millions of dollars a year transporting gas for one of its top clients, a giant Russian energy company called Sibur, whose owners include the oligarch and Mr. Putin’s family member. Despite selling off numerous other holdings to join the Trump administration and spearhead its “America first” trade policy, Mr. Ross kept an investment in Navigator, which increased its business dealings with Sibur even as the West sought to punish Russia’s energy sector over Mr. Putin’s incursions into Ukraine.
Partnerships used by Mr. Ross, whose private equity firm has long been the biggest shareholder in Navigator, have a 31 percent stake in the company. Though his personal share of that stake was reduced as he took office in February, he retained an investment in the partnerships valued between $2 million and $10 million, and stood to earn a higher share of profits as a general partner, according to his government ethics disclosure and securities filings.
All told, there is reason to investigate Wilbur Ross and his shady finances. Six U.S. senators have asked the Inspector General to investigate the following:
—The true value of Secretary Ross’s personal wealth
—Whether Secretary Ross has complied with divestment requirements in his ethics agreement, including the fact there is no evidence he has divested from the Bank of Cyprus, the shady, preferred money-laundering bank of Paul Manafort and Russian oligarchs
—Whether Secretary Ross has complied with recusal requirements in his ethics agreement and the adequacy of that agreement
—Whether senior department officials have been allowed to serve despite conflicts of interest. This questions is directed at Ross’s chief of staff, Wendy Teramota, who continued to serve on the board of the Russian shipping firm Navigator well into their time in office.
The senators listed nine very specific questions for Secretary Ross, which you can read in full below, embedded with the full letter to the Inspector General’s office at the U.S. Department of Commerce.