The editors of Forbes Magazine are accusing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of overstating his net worth by “more than $2 billion” for more than a decade in order to be placed on the Forbes 400 and to “bolster his standing” in the business community.
In an article published Friday, Forbes’ Dan Alexander writes that Ross lied about placing the money in trusts for his family during his nomination process in order to remain on the list.
“After one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer,” Alexander claims. “That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004.”
When asked about documentation for the trusts, Ross refused Forbes’ request, citing “privacy issues.”
Back in 2004, Ross was placed on the Forbes’ billionaire list for the first time with a net worth listed at $1 billion. His business colleagues have since told the magazine that the 2004 number was inflated to almost four times Ross’ actual wealth.
“Everyone that I knew that worked with Wilbur knew it wasn’t true,” one of Ross’ former colleagues told the reporter.
In a response to a set of questions from Forbes, the Commerce Department issued a statement:
“Secretary Ross has filed all required disclosures in accordance with the law and in consultation with both legal counsel and ethics officials at the Department of Commerce and Office of Government Ethics. As we have said before, any misunderstanding from your previous conversation with Secretary Ross is unfortunate.”
According to Forbes, Ross had been including money that belonged to investors in his funds in his estimates of his own net worth to the magazine. However, it took nearly ten years for the magazine to notice the discrepancy, which they did, in 2013.
“Ross strung us along, leading us to believe he would provide evidence of his assets, but never did. Just months later, he was insisting that he was even richer, and Forbes continued to largely fall for it,” Alexander writes.
After questioning the Commerce Department about the alleged $2 billion that Ross said he placed in trusts between the November 2016 election and his confirmation, the agency released a statement confirming it never happened.
“Contrary to the report in Forbes, there was no major asset transfer to a trust in the period between the election and Secretary Ross’s confirmation,” the statement read.
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