Forbes: The Mystery Of Wilbur Ross' Missing Billions
When one legislator at the confirmation hearing asked Wilbur Ross how he would ensure that his official actions did not create conflicts of interest, given his vast personal holdings, Ross left little room for criticism. “I intend to be quite scrupulous about recusal and any topic where there is the slightest scintilla of doubt,” he said.
What he left unsaid, however, was that between the November election and January inauguration, he had quietly moved a chunk of assets into trusts for his family members, leaving more than $2 billion off of his financial disclosure report—and therefore out of the public eye. Ross revealed the existence of those assets, and the timing of the transfer, when Forbes asked why his financial disclosure form listed fewer assets than he had previously told the magazine he owned.
Walter Shaub, who resigned as the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in July 2017, said the rules governing a particular trust are key to understanding whether an official has to disclose the entire trust, or just the assets that produced income shortly before they were transferred out of the filer’s hands. “If someone were to divest an asset by giving it away, it’s important that that asset never wind up back in the donors’ hands again,” Shaub said. “If at some point in the future that person ends up with the asset again, it’s going to look like it was a sham divestiture.”