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Democratic Committee Leaders Request Commerce Inspector General Investigate Ross’ Conflicts of Interest

Jun 27, 2018
Press Release
“American taxpayers deserve assurances that Secretary Ross can serve the public trust in a manner that is unbiased and free from conflicts of interest.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Democratic Ranking Members of eight House Committees with jurisdiction over the Department of Commerce sent a letter to the Agency’s Inspector General, Peggy Gustafson, requesting an investigation into Secretary Wilbur Ross’s compliance with federal ethics requirements, his ongoing issues with conflicts of interest, and his potentially false comments regarding certain financial holdings.

The request follows troubling information outlined in a recent Forbes report detailing how, while serving as Secretary of Commerce, Ross maintained stakes in companies co-owned by the Chinese government, a shipping company tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a bank in Cyprus reportedly part of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and a company in an industry Ross is now investigating.  Additionally, the New York Times reported that Ross shorted stock in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company tied to the Russian energy company Sibur, potentially putting himself in a position to make money when the share prices dropped. 

Rather than fully divesting these assets as he committed to do in his confirmation hearings, Secretary Ross appears to have placed certain assets into a trust that benefits his family members,” the Ranking Members wrote to Gustafson.  “Secretary Ross’s holdings in Navigator, his sale of those holdings, and his lack of transparency with regard to those holdings, are especially troubling given that he is responsible for promoting the interests of U.S. companies and for implementing sanctions against Russia.”

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Small Business Committee Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ).

According to a recently released ethics disclosure, until late December 2017, Secretary Ross still held assets in companies in which he was formerly employed or served as a director, in direct violation of his ethics agreement.  On December 19 and 20 of last year, Secretary Ross sold between $10 and $50 million of stock in Invesco, seven months after he was required to divest.  Furthermore, on December 14, 2017, Secretary Ross sold between $250,000 and $500,000 of shares in the Greenbrier Companies, a railroad equipment and services provider.

“American taxpayers deserve assurances that Secretary Ross can serve the public trust in a manner that is unbiased and free from conflicts of interest,” the members continued.  “We respectfully request that you review whether Secretary Ross violated conflict of interest and other ethics rules, whether he has any ongoing conflicts of interest, and whether he has any additional holdings he has not reported or divested in compliance with his ethics agreement.”

The letter to Secretary Ross is available HERE.

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