New details on Wilbur Ross's business at the foreclosure model



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several million dollars In the last three years, a lawsuit has been quietly launched in the New York State judicial system, pitting a private equity manager, David Storper, against his former boss, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The pair worked side by side for over a decade, then in the firm WL Ross & amp; Co. – where, later, Storper claimed that Ross had stolen his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, and then attempted to conceal them with forged documents. Two weeks ago, just before the start of a lawsuit involving $ 4 million, Ross and Storper agreed on a confidential settlement, the existence of which has never been reported and whose terms remain secret.

It's hard to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimated at around $ 700 million, could steal a few million from one of its trading partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember that the Commerce Secretary took a handful of Sweet'N Low packages from a nearby restaurant. So he did not have to go out and buy some for himself. One of them said that the workers in his home in the Hamptons used to phone the office, claiming that Ross had not paid them for their work. Two other people said that Ross once promised $ 1 million to a charity before ever paying. A trade official called the tales "little nonsense" and added that Ross did not put sweeteners in his coffee. & nbsp;

There are bigger allegations. For several months, talking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes discovered a trend: many of those who worked directly with him claimed that Ross had wrongly siphoned or stole a few millions here and a few millions there, huge sums for the most part but not necessarily for the commercial secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But in total, these allegations – which resulted in lawsuits, refunds and a fine from the SEC – amount to more than $ 120 million. If even half of the charges are legitimate, the current US Secretary of Commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

    Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur RossAnthony Kwan / Bloomberg

Not that he sees himself that way. "The SEC has never taken any coercive action against me," Ross said in a statement. He failed to mention the fine of $ 2.3 million imposed on his business in 2016. The Commerce Secretary also noted that a lawsuit filed against him had been filed without saying it. is currently being appealed. Ross confirmed the settlement of two other cases, including the recent one against Storper, but declined to provide additional details.

Those who have done business with Ross usually tell a coherent story, that of a man obsessed with money and not attached to the facts. "He will push the boundaries of truth and use the power he has to seize assets," said New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross's former colleagues is more direct: "He's a pathological liar."

If even half of the charges are legitimate, the current US Secretary of Commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

W

ilbur Ross figured At some point, this money, or its aura, translates into power. Forbes at already documented how, apparently, Ross lied to us, for many years, by placing himself on our billionaire ranking, and then at a higher rank, even lying at some point on an apparent transfer of billions of dollars to family members for explain why his financial disclosure report indicated fewer assets than he claimed. "What I do not want," says Ross, "is that people suddenly think I've lost a lot of money when it's not true."

Such machinations now seem pathetic. But his billionaire status has not been lost to another person obsessed with his net worth. Donald Trump called Ross "legendary genius of Wall Street" and named him in his office. "In these particular positions," Trump explained to a crowd of supporters, "I just do not want a poor guy."

Ross speaks before President Trump signs a memorandum in March.

Ross speaks before President Trump signs a memorandum in March.2018 Getty Images

From Ross's point of view, Trump offered the perfect exit. The private secretary's private equity fund was underperforming – one about to lose 26% of its initial value and two others dribbling low yields – and the charges began to pile up. About two months before the 2016 presidential election, the SEC announced that WL Ross was paying a fine and paying back $ 11.9 million that would have been skimmed off by his investors, including interest. The scheme was complex. Like other private equity firms, many of which reported to the SEC at about the same time, WL Ross derived a significant portion of its income from management fees charged to its investors. With funds reaching $ 4.1 billion, the 1.5% management fee alone could bring over $ 60 million a year to Ross's business – a significant amount of money.

But WL Ross promised that it would give his investors something like a discount. For example, when Ross and his colleagues received certain fees to work on transactions, they were supposed to return at least 50% of that money to investors. But, according to SEC investigators, the firm returned less than it had suggested and pocketed the difference, which led the federal government to conclude that Ross had violated laws prohibiting fraud and misrepresentation. mislead customers. WL Ross paid the big money but never admitted his guilt.

According to the federal government, WL Ross charged some of these inappropriate fees in the years prior to the sale of his business to Invesco by the Commerce Secretary for $ 100 million in advance, as well as the opportunity to generate $ 275 million additional dollars. This meant that, when Ross had cashed his money, he had probably done it with a higher valuation than he deserved. In a statement, Ross said that Invesco had never recovered this money. "The conditions for the sale of my business in 2006 remain unchanged," he said. Invesco declined to comment. & Nbsp;

There is more to the story. According to five former employees and investors of WL Ross, the company also charged its investors money lost. Here's how it worked: If WL Ross had made a $ 100 million investment, for example, which had declined sharply in the last few years of the fund, the company was expected to charge a management fee on the real value of the fund. Investment, not on the starting point of $ 100 million. . However, WL Ross would have continued to collect fees on the amount invested, taking more than he would have deserved. WL Ross would have even charged a fee on an essentially worthless investment. Wilbur Ross initially claimed that his company was correctly calculating the fees, according to a person familiar with these discussions. "There are all sorts of cost issues," said one investor, "but it's the most glaring I've seen."

Nick DeSantis

Ross would also have saved money by sitting on the board of directors of his company's portfolio companies. Again, the rule was that some of the fees that WL Ross employees received to serve on such boards were supposed to be returned to investors in the form of rebates. Instead, the Ross firm has not given enough, according to former colleagues. Ross "was like a kid in a candy store," says one of his former employees. "He stole it."

Ross is now trying to differentiate himself from management expense issues. "No regulatory agency has ever made such charges or any other charges against me and no such allegation is founded," he said in a statement.

Eight former employees and investors, however, said Ross was supposed to be aware of the problems. And former WL Ross employees add that the costs were well above the $ 14.2 million announced by Securities & amp; Commission of exchange. In its 2015 annual report, Invesco, parent company of WL Ross, disclosed that the company had paid an additional $ 43 million over the last two years in the form of refunds and regulatory expenses related to its private equity activities. Secretary Ross largely avoided examinations on these payments because the report does not explicitly link them to his former company. Four former employees who worked there, however, Forbes the $ 43 million was connected to WL Ross.

Wwith the investors' demands Apparently behind him, Ross is now facing a series of allegations from his former colleagues, who claim that he also stole them money. Such accusations are not new to Ross. In 2005, Peter Lusk, former vice president of WL Ross, filed a $ 20 million lawsuit against the future commercial secretary, alleging that he had tried to separate him from his interests. The leaders reached a settlement in 2007 that, according to former WL Ross employees, would cost about $ 10 million. Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Ross replied, "The Lusk case has ended with mutual confidentiality requirements."

Three years ago, Storper filed a $ 4 million lawsuit against his former employer, WL Ross, and his former boss, the Commerce Secretary, alleging that Ross had stolen his interests. Ross's lawyers admitted in court that one of his companies had taken Storper's interest into account and had redistributed some of it to the Secretary of Commerce. But Ross's lawyers also insisted that all of this was allowed by internal agreements. "In simple terms," ​​they wrote, "this lawsuit is a personal vendetta against Mr. Ross". After a judge dismissed attempts to prevent the trial, only days before the selection of the jury, both parties had agreed to settle their dispute.

What makes it more than just a dispute "he said," she says, "is the number of similar complaints against Ross. A third former WL Ross employee, Joseph Mullin, sued for $ 3.6 million in December 2016, claiming that WL Ross's funds had "plundered" his interests "in favor of Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. – and attempted to conceal their misbehavior opaque, tax returns and misleading tax returns. "A New York state court dismissed the case in February for technical reasons, saying Mullin, who had left WL Ross in 2007 had waited too long to sort it out and is now appealing.

Storper and two other former senior executives of WL Ross filed a new lawsuit against the commercial secretary in November, alleging that he and his company had charged at least $ 48 million in inappropriate fees, before pocketing them. According to the lawsuit, it was a slow siphoning rather than a single holdup. Private equity firms generally charge only a management fee (1.5%) only to their external clients. But the suit claims that Ross and his company have also blamed current and former leaders. It would be like a restaurateur who tells his employees that they can eat for free while taking money out of the meal in their paycheck. In a statement to ForbesRoss called the case "unfounded". He proposed to file it in February, but the lawsuit remains active.

A look at the older versions of the WL Ross website reveals the extent of the turmoil. Of the seven major chiefs of staff listed on the 2006 website, none of them has the same role today. Ross now heads the commerce department, Wendy Teramoto is his chief of staff and Stephen Toy is the new co-chair of WL Ross. Meanwhile, the majority – consisting of Storper, Mullin, David Wax and Pamela Wilson – are actively engaged in legal battles against their former boss, Wilbur Ross.

In a presidential cabinet With ethical problems, it is easy to forget about Wilbur Ross. The focus is primarily on obvious abuse, such as Scott Pruitt being put in a soundproof kiosk of $ 43,000 in his office or Tom Price wasting $ 341,000 for a jet trip. But if Ross's antics are more complicated, they involve a lot more money.

November 1st In 2017, Ross signed an affidavit attesting that he had sold all the promised assets. This was not true. In fact, the commercial secretary still held between 10 and 50 million dollars worth of shares of WL Ross' parent company, Invesco. Ross sold his shares a month later, at least $ 1.2 million more than he would have sold if he had sold in May, when he promised to sell. By falsely claiming that he had gotten rid of the earlier actions, Ross is also put at legal risk because lying to federal officials is a crime. Representatives of Ross, a sophisticated investor, said the commercial secretary did not lie, but did not realize he owned the shares.

But if Ross's antics are more complicated, they involve a lot more money.

Ross also stated that he did not know that he held a $ 73,000 stake in a company called Air Lease, which he finally sold in June, more than a year ago. after having promised. And he confessed to having bypassed Sun Bancorp's shares, saying he hoped to cancel an interest that he mistakenly thought he owned but that he had not done so. "For all the leaders of private equity firms that I know, including like David Carlyle's David Rubenstein or Stephen Blackstone's Schwarzman – these guys know what they own." is their entire job, it's their whole life, "says an investor in WL Ross's funds, calling the Commerce Secretary's explanation" ridiculous ".

A senior official at the Federal Office of Ethics reprimanded Ross in a letter last month, saying his failure to relinquish public confidence was tough. According to the letter, another ethics executive searched Ross' diaries to see if the Commerce Secretary had broken the law by taking action in favor of his personal assets, finding no evidence of what he possessed. A day later, however, Forbes revealed that Ross had already dined at the White House with the CEO of a company in which the Secretary of Commerce secretly held an interest. After the report, Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, asked the Inspector General of Commerce to take a second look.

Thune is not the only senator to make noise about Ross's finances. In June, two senators and one congressman questioned the securities department. The Foreign Exchange Commission has announced the opening of an investigation into Ross's insider trading, based on revelations that it would have at least a hundred thousand dollars to the broker in Navigator Holdings, linked to Putin , shortly after being informed next presentation on his connection to society. The tiny scale – the trade apparently increased Ross's portfolio from $ 3,000 to $ 10,000 – makes the gaffe even more vexing.

Senator John Thune asks a question at the confirmation hearing of Wilbur Ross.

Senator John Thune asks a question at the confirmation hearing of Wilbur Ross. 2017 Getty Images

Fourteen members of Congress also invited the Inspector General to investigate Ross's potential conflicts of interest. After assuring Senators during his confirmation hearing that he would be too cautious about ethics, Ross passed the majority from his first year as a Chinese government trading partner, as he negotiated trade relations between the United States and China. He also waited to get rid of a stake in a Cypriot bank that would have been linked to the investigation led by Robert Mueller. And it took months to disengage from a foreign auto parts maker that he is currently investigating on the industry.

The central question of all Ross's legal questions is his own credibility. "Extending on an ethics disclosure form to Congressional and Senate committees and falsely reporting compliance to an ethics plan is neither a commonplace nor an element of the world." of accepted politics, "David Storper, Ross's former right hand man, has disputed in court. "These are just lies," adds another colleague: "It's an official who can not tell the truth." & Nbsp;

Contact Dan Alexander at [email protected] Cover image of Patrick Welsh for Forbes.

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several million dollars In the last three years, a lawsuit has been quietly launched in the New York State judicial system, pitting a private equity manager, David Storper, against his former boss, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The couple worked side by side for more than ten years, then in the company WL Ross & Co., where, according to Storper, he had stolen his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to hide them. with fake papers. Two weeks ago, just before the start of a lawsuit involving $ 4 million, Ross and Storper agreed on a confidential settlement, the existence of which has never been reported and whose terms remain secret.

It's hard to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimated at around $ 700 million, could steal a few million from one of its trading partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember that the Commerce Secretary took a handful of Sweet'N Low packages from a nearby restaurant. So he did not have to go out and buy some for himself. One of them said that the workers in his home in the Hamptons used to phone the office, claiming that Ross had not paid them for their work. Two other people said that Ross once promised $ 1 million to a charity before ever paying. A trade official called the tales "little nonsense" and added that Ross did not put sweeteners in his coffee.

There are bigger allegations. For several months, talking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes discovered a trend: many of those who worked directly with him claimed that Ross had wrongly siphoned or stole a few millions here and a few millions there, huge sums for the most part but not necessarily for the commercial secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But in total, these allegations – which resulted in lawsuits, refunds and a fine from the SEC – amount to more than $ 120 million. If even half of the charges are legitimate, the current US Secretary of Commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

    Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur RossAnthony Kwan / Bloomberg

Not that he sees himself that way. "The SEC has never taken any coercive action against me," Ross said in a statement. He failed to mention the fine of $ 2.3 million imposed on his business in 2016. The Commerce Secretary also noted that a lawsuit filed against him had been filed without saying it. is currently being appealed. Ross confirmed the settlement of two other cases, including the recent one against Storper, but declined to provide additional details.

Those who have done business with Ross usually tell a coherent story, that of a man obsessed with money and not attached to the facts. "He will push the boundaries of truth and use the power he has to seize assets," said New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross's former colleagues is more direct: "He's a pathological liar."

If even half of the charges are legitimate, the current US Secretary of Commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

W

ilbur Ross figured At some point, this money, or its aura, translates into power. Forbes has already documented how, apparently, Ross had been lying to us, for many years, inspiring us from our billionaire rankings, then even higher, even lying about an apparent multi-billion dollar transfer to family members to explain why his financial disclosure report revealed fewer assets than he claimed. "What I do not want," says Ross, "is that people suddenly think I've lost a lot of money when it's not true."

Such machinations now seem pathetic. But his billionaire status has not been lost to another person obsessed with his net worth. Donald Trump called Ross "legendary genius of Wall Street" and named him in his office. "In these particular positions," Trump explained to a crowd of supporters, "I just do not want a poor guy."

Ross speaks before President Trump signs a memorandum in March.

Ross speaks before President Trump signs a memorandum in March.2018 Getty Images

From Ross's point of view, Trump offered the perfect exit. The private secretary's private equity fund was underperforming – one about to lose 26% of its initial value and two others dribbling low yields – and the charges began to pile up. About two months before the 2016 presidential election, the SEC announced that WL Ross was paying a fine and paying back $ 11.9 million that would have been skimmed off by his investors, including interest. The scheme was complex. Like other private equity firms, many of which reported to the SEC at about the same time, WL Ross derived a significant portion of its income from management fees charged to its investors. With funds reaching $ 4.1 billion, the 1.5% management fee alone could bring over $ 60 million a year to Ross's business – a significant amount of money.

But WL Ross promised that it would give his investors something like a discount. For example, when Ross and his colleagues received certain fees to work on transactions, they were supposed to return at least 50% of that money to investors. But, according to SEC investigators, the firm returned less than it had suggested and pocketed the difference, which led the federal government to conclude that Ross had violated laws prohibiting fraud and misrepresentation. mislead customers. WL Ross paid the big money but never admitted his guilt.

According to the federal government, WL Ross charged some of these inappropriate fees in the years prior to the sale of his business to Invesco by the Commerce Secretary for $ 100 million in advance, as well as the opportunity to generate $ 275 million additional dollars. This meant that, when Ross had cashed his money, he had probably done it with a higher valuation than he deserved. In a statement, Ross said that Invesco had never recovered this money. "The conditions for the sale of my business in 2006 remain unchanged," he said. Invesco declined to comment.

There is more to the story. According to five former employees and investors of WL Ross, the company also charged its investors money lost. Here's how it worked: If WL Ross had made a $ 100 million investment, for example, which had declined sharply in the last few years of the fund, the company was expected to charge a management fee on the real value of the fund. Investment, not on the starting point of $ 100 million. . However, WL Ross would have continued to collect fees on the amount invested, taking more than he would have deserved. WL Ross would have even charged a fee on an essentially worthless investment. Wilbur Ross initially claimed that his company was correctly calculating the fees, according to a person familiar with these discussions. "There are all sorts of cost issues," said one investor, "but it's the most glaring I've seen."

Nick DeSantis

Ross would also have saved money by sitting on the board of directors of his company's portfolio companies. Again, the rule was that some of the fees that WL Ross employees received to serve on such boards were supposed to be returned to investors in the form of rebates. Instead, the Ross firm has not given enough, according to former colleagues. Ross "was like a kid in a candy store," says one of his former employees. "He stole it."

Ross is now trying to differentiate himself from management expense issues. "No regulatory agency has ever made such charges or any other charges against me and no such allegation is founded," he said in a statement.

Eight former employees and investors, however, said Ross was supposed to be aware of the problems. And former WL Ross employees add that the costs were well above the $ 14.2 million announced by the Securities & Exchange Commission. In its 2015 annual report, Invesco, parent company of WL Ross, disclosed that the company had paid an additional $ 43 million over the last two years in the form of refunds and regulatory expenses related to its private equity activities. Secretary Ross largely avoided examinations on these payments because the report does not explicitly link them to his former company. Four former employees who worked there, however, Forbes the $ 43 million was connected to WL Ross.

Wwith the investors' demands Apparently behind him, Ross is now facing a series of allegations from his former colleagues, who claim that he also stole them money. Such accusations are not new to Ross. In 2005, Peter Lusk, former vice president of WL Ross, filed a $ 20 million lawsuit against the future commercial secretary, alleging that he had tried to separate him from his interests. The leaders reached a settlement in 2007 that, according to former WL Ross employees, would cost about $ 10 million. Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Ross replied, "The Lusk case has ended with mutual confidentiality requirements."

Three years ago, Storper filed a $ 4 million lawsuit against his former employer, WL Ross, and his former boss, the Commerce Secretary, alleging that Ross had stolen his interests. Les avocats de Ross ont admis devant le tribunal que l’une de ses sociétés avait pris en compte l’intérêt de Storper et en avaient redistribué une partie au secrétaire au commerce. Mais les avocats de Ross ont également insisté sur le fait que tout cela était autorisé par des accords internes. "En termes simples", ont-ils écrit, "cette action en justice est une vendetta personnelle contre M. Ross". Après qu&#39;un juge ait rejeté les tentatives d&#39;empêcher la tenue du procès, quelques jours seulement avant la sélection du jury, les deux parties avaient convenu de régler leur différend.

Ce qui en fait plus qu’un simple différend «il a dit, dit-elle», c’est le nombre de plaintes similaires contre Ross. Un troisième ancien employé de WL Ross, Joseph Mullin, a intenté une poursuite de 3,6 millions de dollars en décembre 2016, affirmant que les fonds de WL Ross avaient "pillé" ses intérêts "au profit de Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. – et tenté de dissimuler leur inconduite de manière opaque. déclarations fiscales et déclarations fiscales trompeuses. »Un tribunal de l’État de New York a rejeté cette affaire en février pour des raisons techniques, affirmant que Mullin, qui avait quitté WL Ross en 2007, avait attendu trop longtemps pour la classer. Il fait maintenant appel.

Storper et deux autres anciens hauts dirigeants de WL Ross ont intenté une nouvelle action en justice contre le secrétaire au commerce en novembre, alléguant que lui-même et son entreprise avaient facturé au moins 48 millions de dollars de frais inappropriés, avant de les empocher. Selon le procès, il s&#39;agissait d&#39;un siphonnage lent plutôt que d&#39;un hold-up unique. Les sociétés de capital-investissement ne perçoivent généralement que des frais de gestion (ces frais de 1,5%) uniquement auprès de leurs clients externes. Mais le procès prétend que Ross et son entreprise auraient également mis en cause des dirigeants actuels et anciens. Ce serait comme un restaurateur qui dit à ses employés qu&#39;ils peuvent manger gratuitement, tout en retirant l&#39;argent du repas dans leur salaire. Dans une déclaration à ForbesRoss a qualifié l&#39;affaire "sans fondement". Il a proposé de la classer en février, mais la poursuite reste active.

Un coup d’œil aux anciennes versions du site Web de WL Ross révèle l’ampleur de la tourmente. Parmi les sept principaux chefs de cabinet répertoriés sur le site Web de 2006, aucun d&#39;entre eux n&#39;a le même rôle aujourd&#39;hui. Ross dirige maintenant le département du commerce, Wendy Teramoto est son chef de cabinet et Stephen Toy est le nouveau coresponsable de WL Ross. Pendant ce temps, la majorité – composée de Storper, Mullin, David Wax et Pamela Wilson – se livrent activement à des batailles juridiques contre leur ancien patron, Wilbur Ross.

In un cabinet présidentiel En proie à des problèmes éthiques, il est facile d’oublier Wilbur Ross. L&#39;attention se concentre principalement sur les abus évidents, tels que Scott Pruitt qui se fait mettre un kiosque insonorisé de 43 000 dollars dans son bureau ou Tom Price qui gaspille 341 000 dollars pour un voyage en avion à réaction. Mais si les singeries de Ross sont plus compliquées, elles impliquent bien plus d’argent.

Le 1er novembre En 2017, Ross a signé un document sous serment attestant qu&#39;il avait cédé tous les actifs promis. Ce n&#39;était pas vrai. En fait, le secrétaire au commerce détenait toujours entre 10 et 50 millions de dollars d&#39;actions de la société mère de WL Ross, Invesco. Ross a vendu ses actions un mois plus tard, en menant au moins 1,2 million de dollars de plus qu’il n’aurait vendu s’il avait vendu en mai, date à laquelle il avait promis de se départir. En prétendant faussement qu&#39;il s&#39;était débarrassé des actions plus tôt, Ross s&#39;est aussi mis en danger juridique, car mentir aux fonctionnaires fédéraux est un crime. Les représentants de Ross, un investisseur averti, ont affirmé que le secrétaire au commerce n’avait pas menti, mais qu’il n’avait pas réalisé qu’il était propriétaire des actions.

Mais si les singeries de Ross sont plus compliquées, elles impliquent bien plus d’argent.

Ross a également déclaré qu&#39;il ne savait pas qu&#39;il détenait une participation de 73 000 $ dans une société appelée Air Lease, qu&#39;il a finalement vendue en juin, soit plus d&#39;un an après l&#39;avoir promis. Et il a avoué avoir court-circuité dans les actions de Sun Bancorp, affirmant qu&#39;il espérait annuler un intérêt qu&#39;il pensait à tort détenir mais qu&#39;il ne l&#39;avait pas fait. "Pour tout dirigeant d&#39;une société de capital-investissement que je connaisse, y compris comme [Carlyle’s David] Rubenstein ou [Blackstone’s Stephen] Schwarzman – ces gars-là savent ce qu&#39;ils possèdent. C’est tout leur métier. C’est toute leur vie », déclare un investisseur dans les fonds de WL Ross, qualifiant l’explication de la secrétaire au Commerce de« ridicule ».

Un haut responsable du Bureau fédéral de la déontologie a réprimandé Ross dans une lettre du mois dernier, affirmant que son incapacité à céder la confiance du public était rude. Selon la lettre, un autre responsable de l’éthique a fouillé les agendas de Ross pour voir si le secrétaire au commerce avait enfreint la loi en prenant des mesures en faveur de ses avoirs personnels, ne trouvant aucune preuve de ce qu’il possédait. Un jour plus tard, cependant, Forbes a révélé que Ross avait déjà dîné, à la Maison Blanche, avec le PDG d&#39;une entreprise dans laquelle le secrétaire au commerce détenait secrètement un intérêt. Après le rapport, le sénateur John Thune, un républicain du Dakota du Sud, a demandé à l&#39;inspecteur général du département du Commerce de jeter un second regard.

Thune n’est pas le seul sénateur à faire du bruit au sujet des finances de Ross. En juin, deux sénateurs et un membre du Congrès ont demandé à la Securities & Exchange Commission de lancer une enquête d&#39;initié sur Ross, sur la base de révélations selon lesquelles Ross avait courtisé au moins 100 000 USD dans Navigator Holdings, lié à Poutine, peu après avoir été informé d&#39;un prochain exposé sur sa relation. à l&#39;entreprise. L’échelle minuscule – le commerce a apparemment augmenté le portefeuille de Ross de 3 000 $ à 10 000 $ – rend la gaffe encore plus vexante.

Le sénateur John Thune pose une question lors de l’audience de confirmation de Wilbur Ross.

Le sénateur John Thune pose une question lors de l’audience de confirmation de Wilbur Ross. 2017 Getty Images

Quatorze membres du Congrès ont également invité l’inspecteur général à enquêter sur les conflits d’intérêts potentiels de Ross. Après avoir assuré aux sénateurs, lors de son audience de confirmation, qu&#39;il serait trop prudent en matière d&#39;éthique, Ross a passé la majeure partie de sa première année en tant que partenaire commercial du gouvernement chinois, tout en négociant les relations commerciales entre les États-Unis et la Chine. Il a également attendu pour se débarrasser d&#39;une participation dans une banque chypriote qui aurait été liée à l&#39;enquête menée par Robert Mueller. Et il a pris des mois pour se désengager d’un fabricant de pièces d’automobile étranger dont il enquête actuellement sur l’industrie.

La question centrale de toutes les questions juridiques de Ross est sa propre crédibilité. “Lying on an ethics disclosure form, to Congressional and Senate committees, and falsely reporting compliance with an ethics plan, is neither ‘commonplace’ nor part of the accepted rough-and-tumble world of politics,” David Storper, Ross’ former right-hand man, argued in a court filing. “They are just lies.” Adds another onetime colleague: “This is a public servant who can’t tell the truth.”

Reach Dan Alexander at [email protected] Cover image by Patrick Welsh for Forbes.