With a net worth of $700 million, Wilbur Ross should've been able to afford Sweet'N Low for his coffee.
But the Wall Street maven turned commerce secretary opted to steal packets of the sweetener from restaurants instead, two former coworkers tell Forbes. They, along with many other ex-colleagues, also accuse him of siphoning a total of $120 million from his business ventures over the years.
Since joining the Trump administration, Ross has run into trouble for failing to divest from foreign companies and profiting off investments that broke federal ethics laws. But these ethical dilemmas start long before Ross' White House days. Forbes has tallied up accusations from 21 people who say Ross either siphoned or stole from them over the years. Those allegations — a few million here, another million there — total $120 million.
One of the accusations sparked a $2.3 million Securities and Exchange Commission fine against Ross' equity firm, though Ross explicitly said "the SEC has never initiated any enforcement action against me" in a statement to Forbes. Other allegations turned into lawsuits, one of which was dismissed but is currently being appealed, and two that Ross admits to settling. If just half of these allegations are real, Ross would be running one of the biggest American cons of all time, Forbes says.
Ross' SEC statement reflects what all these colleagues told Forbes: that the man isn't too fond of the truth. A Commerce Department official told Forbes that the allegations are "petty nonsense," especially because Ross doesn't sweeten his coffee.
Read more about Ross' caffeine — and alleged grifting — addiction at Forbes. Kathryn Krawczyk
Update 12:01 p.m. ET: The Department of Commerce released a statement on Ross' behalf, saying the Forbes story was "based on false rumors, innuendo, and unverifiable claims." "The fact remains that no regulator has made any of these accusations against the secretary," the department said. "This rehash of old stories is clearly the result of a personal vendetta. The baseless claims made in this story were well publicized long ago and are not news."