August 07, 2018
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross could rank “among the biggest grifters in American history,” according to a Forbes report that details claims he wrongly siphoned or “outright stole” millions of dollars from former business associates.
Wilbur Ross alleged to have siphoned more than $120 million from associates, Forbes reports
The magazine spoke with 21 people who know Ross, who formerly headed private-equity company WL Ross & Co. All told, Forbes said, the allegations come to more than $120 million in aggregate value.
Among the allegations reported by Forbes, three former WL Ross executives say Ross and his firm charged at least $48 million in improper fees, then pocketed the money. A lawsuit about the matter remains active. Ross reportedly called the case “without merit” in a statement to Forbes.
Ross also said in a statement that the Securities and Exchange Commission had “never initiated any enforcement action against me.” But Forbes noted that he did not mention a $2.3 million fine the SEC levied against his firm in 2016.
Ross’s firm was also charging investors on money that it had lost, according to five former employees — allegedly even charging fees on one investment that was essentially worthless, according to Forbes. In a statement regarding management-fee issues, Ross said “no regulatory agency has ever asserted such charges or any other charges against me and there is no basis for any such allegations.”
In the Forbes article, an unnamed Commerce Department official called other parts of the report “petty nonsense” — such as former colleagues remembering Ross taking handfuls of Sweet ’N Low packets from a restaurant so he didn’t have to buy them himself.
Following publication of the Forbes story, a Commerce Department statement said the piece was based on “false rumors, innuendo, and unverifiable claims.”
“The fact remains that no regulator has made any of these accusations against the secretary. 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,” the department’s statement said.
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