Wilbur Ross is accused of swindling $120 million from associates and ‘could rank among the biggest grifters in American history,’ according to a bombshell Forbes report

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

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US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
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Win McNamee/Getty Images

  • US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has been accused of swindling associates out of more than $120 million, according to a new bombshell report from Forbes.
  • The magazine interviewed 21 former colleagues, many of whom said Ross had a propensity to filch money for himself.
  • The Department of Commerce issued a statement in response, saying the Forbes story is “based on false rumors, innuendo, and unverifiable claims.”

According to former colleagues, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has been known to grab handfuls of Sweet’N Low on his way out of restaurants, to save himself the trouble of having to buy his own.

But that may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to a bombshell report on Tuesday from Dan Alexander of Forbes.

The report says Forbes spoke with 21 people who know Ross and found claims that he wrongly took millions of dollars for himself on multiple occasions. The publication estimated that if all the allegations were true, then Ross had bilked associates out of more than $120 million.

Alexander pulled no punches in summarizing his findings, concluding: “If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.”

A Commerce Department spokesperson vehemently refuted the Forbes report.

“The anonymously sourced Forbes story is based on false rumors, innuendo, and unverifiable claims,” it told Business Insider in a statement. “The fact remains that no regulator has made any of these accusations against the Secretary. This rehash of old stories is clearly the result of a personal vendetta. The baseless claims made in this story were well publicized long ago and are not news.”

Earlier in the day, a statement from Ross said “the SEC has never initiated any enforcement action against me.”

That’s not entirely true, Forbes said, considering the US Securities and Exchange Commission fined his firm $2.3 million in 2016.

Alexander’s interest in Ross stemmed from the commerce secretary’s apparent attempts to mislead Forbes, which the magazine says were an attempt to get himself higher on the publication’s ranking of billionaires.

Here’s a breakdown of all the allegations outlined in the Forbes report, presented in chronological order. Adding together all of the bolded numbers, you arrive at roughly $120 million.

  • 2005 – A former vice chairman of the firm WL Ross filed a $20 million lawsuit against Ross, alleging that Ross tried to cut him out of his share. They reached a confidential settlement, which reportedly cost $10 million.
  • 2014-2015 – Invesco, the parent company of WL Ross, reported $43 million in regulatory and reimbursement expenses, which four former employees say were tied to issues that occurred under Ross.
  • July 2015 – Ross’ former No. 2 filed a $4 million lawsuit, alleging that Ross stole his interests. They recently reached a confidential settlement.
  • August 2016 – As mentioned above, WL Ross agreed to pay the SEC $2.3 million after allegations that the firm defrauded and misled investors. The company settled without admitting wrongdoing.
  • August 2016 – When the SEC announced its fine, it also revealed that the WL Ross paid back $11.9 million it was accused of taking from investors, including interest, when Ross was running the firm.
  • December 2016 – A former WL Ross employee sued the company, alleging that Ross “looted” his accounts to the tune of $3.6 million.
  • November 2017 – Three former WL Ross executives sued Ross and their former firm, accusing them of charging $48 million in improper fees. Ross says the legal action is “without merit.”

Read the full Forbes report here.

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