Speed Reads

A cabinet of billionaires?

Wilbur Ross said he was worth $3.7 billion. Forbes found out he's only worth $700 million.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was listed in the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans a year ago with a net worth of $2.9 billion, but a Forbes investigation published Tuesday found that Ross has actually lied for over a decade about his net worth. In reality, Ross is worth the comparatively paltry sum of $700 million.

Ross first appeared on the Forbes 400 list in 2004 after his private equity firm, WL Ross & Co, struck a deal to sell International Steel Group for $4.5 billion. Although Forbes now estimates that Ross made only $260 million from the sale of ISG, the future commerce secretary was credited in the press with making over $2 billion, which in reality had mostly gone to the investors in his firm. Ross did not mention that vital caveat to a Forbes reporter who "confirmed" his net worth in 2004 — and so he was dubiously added to the Forbes 400 list, where he was listed for over a decade.

In the end, Ross' nomination to President Trump's Cabinet unraveled the lies about his wealth. His financial asset disclosures accounted for just $700 million in assets, Forbes noted, but Ross claimed he was worth $3.7 billion. Ross attributed the missing money to $2 billion he said had been put into family trusts between the election and his nomination to the Cabinet, which he therefore did not have to disclose.

The Department of Commerce told Forbes that "there was no major asset transfer to a trust in the period between the election and Secretary Ross's confirmation." This is the second time this week that Ross has come under scrutiny for improper disclosures about his finances: On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Ross failed to mention investments in Kremlin-connected gas and energy companies during his confirmation process.