Donald Trump called Wilbur Ross “a legendary Wall Street genius” when he appointed him Secretary of Commerce, which in Trumpspeak translates as “crooked as hell, just like me and all my cronies.” Ross allegedly stole interests in an equity fund from the funds manager, David Storper, and transferred the money to himself and then covered up the transactions with bogus paperwork. Two weeks ago Ross settled out of court, one can infer to save himself the embarrassment of a trial. This is bad enough on its face, but it’s only part of a larger picture of grifting. Forbes:
It is difficult to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimates is worth some $700 million, might steal a few million from one of his business partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember the commerce secretary taking handfuls of Sweet’N Low packets from a nearby restaurant, so he didn’t have to go out and buy some for himself. One says workers at his house in the Hamptons used to call the office, claiming Ross had not paid them for their work. Another two people said Ross once pledged $1 million to a charity, then never paid. A commerce official called the tales “petty nonsense,” and added that Ross does not put sweetener in his coffee.
There are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.
Those who’ve done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. “He’ll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets,” says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross’ former colleagues is more direct: “He’s a pathological liar.”
Ross confirmed settling Storper’s case and one other and there’s another case pending against him in the appeals process.
Wilbur Ross is a real piece of work and in any other administration there would be an immediate call for resignation on these facts. But in this all corruption all the time world of Donald Trump, this story is flying right under the radar and is not in the least the scandal that it should be — or perhaps not yet.