Forbes Magazine is removing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from The Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans after the magazine determined that Ross lied about his net worth.
After a month-long investigation, Forbes determined that not only is Ross worth much less than he claims, but he has also been lying to Forbes since he was first placed on The Forbes 400 list in 2004.
President Donald Trump nominated Ross to serve as Commerce secretary in November 2016. The supposed billionaire had advised Trump on economics throughout the campaign, and the president-elect was tapping him to play a prominent role in enacting Trump’s America First trade agenda.
“A Trump Administration will not tolerate cheating by any nation,” Ross wrote with University of California-Irvine business professor Peter Navarro on Trump’s economic plan. “If America’s trading partners continue to cheat, a President Trump will use all available means to defend American workers and American manufacturing facilities from such cheating.”
Questions over Ross’s “phantom $2 billion” arose after federal filings disclosed after Ross was nominated showed he was worth less than $700 million, $2.2 billion less than Forbes originally estimated, according to Forbes.
“You’re apparently not counting [trusts for my family], which are more than $2 billion,” Ross protested to Forbes after hearing he would be removed from The Forbes 400.
Ross claimed he moved $2 billion into trusts sometime after the election and before he was nominated. When Forbes asked for documented proof of the sums, Ross declined, citing “privacy issues.”
Forbes then questioned the timing of the transfer. Ross would be liable for $800 million in gift taxes as Trump, who was prepared to eliminate the estate tax, was about to take office.
Six Senate Democrats, motivated by Forbes’s investigation, asked for an ethics investigation into Ross’s finances in October, well after Ross had taken control of the Department of Commerce.
Ross’s department responded to the request, denying that any transfer ever 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 Commerce Department said, according to Forbes.
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