Ethics Office Rebukes Commerce Secretary For Concealing Bank Stock
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) refused to certify Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ financial disclosure form — because Ross lied about owning certain stocks.
The move comes after the OGE warned Ross in the summer of 2018 about the consequences of his repeated problems with inaccurate disclosures.
In a letter dated Feb. 15, 2019, OGE Director Emory A. Rounds declared that the office would not certify Ross’ disclosure because the “report was not accurate and he was not in compliance with his ethics agreement at the time of the report.”
Ross lied about owning BankUnited stock, the Center for Public Integrity reported in December 2018. According to the ethics agreement Ross signed in early 2017, Ross was supposed to divest this stock no later than the end of May 2017.
But he didn’t. In fact, he continued to own some stock in the company all the way until the end of October 2018, despite signing several financial disclosure forms saying he sold them all in the intervening months.
“Wilbur Ross clearly is not taking his ethics obligations seriously,” Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, told the Center for Public Integrity in December. “He’s been warned and at this point he needs a full audit by OGE and probably Congress to make sure he’s not operating with blatant conflict of interest.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill took notice as well. In December, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Center for Public Integrity that this “administration’s contempt for the most basic checks on corruption is bottomless.”
Lying on an ethics form isn’t the only way Ross makes headlines. During the Trump shutdown, Ross was baffled that some federal workers were struggling after not being paid for 35 days. When a reporter asked Ross about federal workers who were visiting homeless shelters to get food, Ross replied that he knew about it, but, he said, “I don’t really quite understand why.”
Like many in Trump’s Cabinet, Ross may see himself as above the rule of law. Unfortunately, his attitude, according to Delaney Marsco, ethics counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, “shows a lack of reverence towards the ethics program and a disregard for the rules.”
Published with permission of The American Independent.
IMAGE: Donald Trump looks on as Wilbur Ross departs after their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar