Trump Commerce Secretary on Thursday admitted to “inadvertent errors” in selling his stock holdings and said he is now selling them, 18 months after the billionaire first pledged to do so.
“I have made inadvertent errors in completing the divestitures required by my ethics agreement,” Ross said in a Thursday statement after receiving a letter from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).
Ross said that “to maintain the public trust,” he had sold off all his equity holdings and placed the proceeds in U.S. Treasury securities.
The OGE letter from acting Director David Apol criticized Ross for failing to divest stocks by Jan. 15, 2017 — the date indicated on his ethics agreement — therefore, creating the potential for “a serious criminal violation on your part.” The letter also noted that Ross said he had complied with the ethics agreement in November 2017, but that transactions existed a month later.
The independent watchdog office said Ross sold Invesco Ltd stocks in December, “well after the date of your compliance document and the date by which you had agreed to divest this asset.”
“Public trust demands that all employees act in the public’s interest, and are free from any actual or perceived conflicts when fulfilling the governmental responsibilities entrusted to them,” Apol wrote.
Several sources “raised concerns” about Ross’s actions to the office, the letter states.
The agency said it reviewed Ross’s calendars, briefing books and correspondence after potential violations but found no serious violation.
“However, your failure to divest created the potential for a serious criminal violation on your part and undermined public confidence,” the letter says.
“We have no information to contradict [the assertion] that the various omissions and inaccuracies on your part were inadvertent,” Apol concludes.
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Wilbur Ross says he’s divesting from all stocks 18 months after ethics agreement
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