Commerce Secretary Faces Scrutiny for Investments, Not Selling Certain Holdings

As commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross has met with auto executives who are customers of the company he founded and still had a financial interest in. He has met with the chief executive of a rail car manufacturer whose board he once sat on and whose shares he still owned. And according to a Forbes magazine article, even though he owned a $10 million to $50 million stake in the financial firm Invesco, where he had worked, he met with a board member of the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund that had given Ross’s former firm money to manage. Ross has denied any wrongdoing — saying he only made “inadvertent errors” — and his lawyer says a commerce secretary must be able to meet with industry officials to do his job.

Outside groups also have raised concerns. On Aug. 10, the nonprofit group Democracy 21 filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section asking it to investigate Ross. And on Aug. 13, the Campaign Legal Center, another watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Commerce Department’s inspector general asking for an inquiry. The commerce inspector general is reviewing the allegations against Ross, but would not comment further on an open matter, said Clark Reid, legislative and external affairs officer.

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