Speed Reads

shady payday

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made over $1 million by failing to follow ethics laws

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross didn't divest stock holdings until months after the deadline imposed by his new federal position. During that time, his stock's value increased by more than $1 million, a Center for Public Integrity investigation found on Thursday.

Ross "mistakenly believed that all of my previously held Invesco stock was sold" before he took office, he wrote in a filing update. "In December 2017, I discovered that the previously held stock had not been sold. I then promptly sold these shares." It's unclear how many shares Ross owned, but the investigation estimates that he could have earned up to $6 million after failing to meet the deadline.

The Invesco Ltd. stock, valued at $10 million to $50 million, would have earned Ross a substantial amount even if he had sold it on time, the secretary's lawyer said. Even so, Ross' financial dealings have been under close scrutiny after a Forbes investigation found that he also kept his stakes in a company co-owned by the Chinese government, a shipping firm linked to the Kremlin, and a Cyprus bank that is entangled in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. While Ross would have profited from his stock holdings no matter when he divested, the Center for Public Integrity notes that his updated filings contradict previous sworn statements in which he said he had divested of all holdings as required by federal ethics laws. Read more at The Center for Public Integrity.

Update July 5, 4:55 p.m.: The Commerce Department reiterated in a statement to The Week the "inadvertent error" that caused the delay in divestment, explaining that Ross "promptly took action" as soon as he learned of the problem. A spokesperson additionally noted that "the secretary has consistently disqualified himself from participating in any matters involving companies on which he formerly held a position, including Invesco."