Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have violated law, watchdog says

Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross may have violated a criminal conflict of interest law by holding stock in companies which could have been affected by Trump administration actions in which he was involved, a campaign finance watchdog said in a complaint filed Monday.

The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center’s complaint said public records suggest which the billionaire Ross also may have violated three laws “which prohibit certain false statements or omissions” in congressional testimony in addition to financial disclosure filings he made regarding his holdings.

The center asked the Commerce Department’s internal ethics watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, to “conduct a thorough investigation of the matter addressed in This specific complaint” in addition to to make public its findings.

A lawyer for Ross, who since November has faced scrutiny for his financial holdings, after CNBC published This specific story issued a statement, saying, “Secretary Ross has not violated any conflict of interest law or regulation. He has not participated personally in addition to substantially in, nor taken any action in regard to a particular matter which would certainly have had a direct in addition to predictable effect on his financial investments.”

CLC’s 115-page complaint flags Ross’ involvement in a Trump administration investigation into whether the United States should impose a tariff on steel imports at the same time he was holding stock in his former investment management firm, Invesco, which “had acquired a major interest in Chinese steel which the steel investigation directly in addition to predictably affected.”

The center also raised concerns about Ross’ initial failure to disclose stock ownership in Greenbrier, “a steel-dependent rail car the,” as well as his holdings in shipping giant Navigator while he was participating inside the steel investigation in addition to inside the Trump administration’s effort “to promote the natural gas trade.” The steel probe in addition to the natural-gas push affected Navigator’s interests, the watchdog argued.

The group said Ross also may have retained different assets which represent a conflict of interest.

The center noted which Ross’ public disclosure filings do not account for his divesting 46 assets which he had been required to shed, including interests inside the Bank of Cyprus.

The group says there is usually doubt which Ross properly addressed conflicts stemming via 25 carried interests in private equity funds.

Finally, the complaint said Ross also may have made false statements or omissions in his recent congressional hearing, in addition to in his Nov. 1 compliance certification, in which he said he had sold all interests inside the companies in which he was required to divest: Air Lease, Invesco in addition to Sun Bancorp.

The complaint said which a day before filing which certification, Ross obtained a fresh interest in Sun Bancorp, in addition to later missed the deadline for disclosing This specific additional interest.

The center’s ethics counsel, Delaney Marsco, scoffed at Ross’s prior explanations for some of the situations highlighted by the complaint. Ross had claimed to have been unaware which he owned stock inside the companies potentially affected by administration policies or inquiries after he said he was divested of such shares.

“Our analysis shows Ross participated in matters affecting his personal interests,” Marsco said. “He has lots of excuses, yet they don’t add up.”

“He can’t be both the legendary investor who managed complex private equity funds in addition to hapless official who doesn’t even know what he owns,” Marsco said.

The complaint comes a month after the U.S. Office of Government Ethics warned Ross which his action, which “included your continued ownership of assets required to be divested in your Ethics Agreement,” in addition to his opening of short sale positions “could have placed you to run afoul of the primary criminal conflict of interest law.”

David Apol, the ethics office’s acting director in addition to general counsel, said in a letter to Ross in July which financial disclosure forms in addition to compliance documents submitted by Ross “contained various omissions in addition to inaccurate statements.”

One the heels of which warning, Ross announced he would certainly sell off all of his equity holdings in addition to buy Treasury securities with the proceeds.

Full statement via a lawyer for Wilbur Ross:

Secretary Ross has not violated any conflict of interest law or regulation. He has not participated personally in addition to substantially in, nor taken any action in regard to a particular matter which would certainly have had a direct in addition to predictable effect on his financial investments. He continues to follow the guidance of Commerce Department ethics officials regarding the matters in which he is usually personally involved. He has divested a very substantial part of the investments he held when he assumed the office of Secretary, in addition to he has pledged to divest different remaining holdings even though he is usually not obligated to do so.

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