Forbes: Wilbur Ross ‘Lied’ About Being A Billionaire

John Stillwell/PA Wire

Forbes magazine has found out that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is not, in fact, a billionaire. He’s a mere multi-multi-millionaire.

After holding his place on The Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans for more than a decade, Ross is being removed from his perch, after the financial disclosure forms he filed for his Cabinet position reveal he has less than $700 million in assets.

It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004,” Forbes writer Dan Alexander wrote Tuesday. “In addition to just padding his ego, Ross’ machinations helped bolster his standing in a way that translated into business opportunities.”

When asked about the discrepancy between his claims of wealth — last year Forbes listed his net worth at $2.9 billion, though he claimed it was closer to $3.7 billion — Ross said he had an additional $2 billion in family trusts. He told Forbes he had put the money in a trust between the election and the nomination and wouldn’t share documentation on the assets for privacy reasons.

Forbes spent a month digging into Ross’ finances. The magazine spoke with 10 former employees at WL Ross and Co. and found that Ross was well known for misleading colleagues and investors. Over the years, he’s paid millions in fines, been forced to pay millions back to investors and has been sued “numerous” times, according to Forbes.

The Department of Commerce disputed claims that Ross moved $2 billion to a trust after the election and a spokesperson for the department only sent Forbes a two-sentence response to detailed questions about his assets.

“Secretary Ross has filed all required disclosures in accordance with the law and in consultation with both legal counsel and ethics officials at the Department of Commerce and Office of Government Ethics. As we have said before, any misunderstanding from your previous conversation with Secretary Ross is unfortunate,” the spokesperson told Forbes.

Ross recently was thrust into the spotlight after it was revealed that he owns holdings in a company that partners with a major Russian gas company, which is owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law, according to the Guardian.

Read the full Forbes report here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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