The Wall Street Journal: Wilbur Ross says he’ll sell equity investments after ‘inadvertent errors’

WASHINGTON — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross agreed Thursday to sell all of his equity investments after acknowledging that he failed to sell some holdings as required by ethics agreements.

Ross said he made “inadvertent errors” due to a “complex” portfolio stemming from his long career as a private-equity investor. The government’s top ethics watchdog, the Office of Government Ethics, had told him that the errors undermined public trust and that some transactions could have placed him “in a position to run afoul of the primary criminal conflict of interest law.”

“Your failure to divest created the potential for a serious criminal violation on your part and undermined public confidence,” David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote in a letter dated Thursday.

Ross, who sold his company to Invesco Ltd. in 2006, maintained Invesco stock that was worth between $10 million and $50 million when he sold it in December, despite indicating earlier that he would sell those shares, the ethics watchdog wrote. Ross wrote on ethics forms that his continued ownership of Invesco was a mistake. He thought he had sold all of his shares before becoming commerce secretary but hadn’t. The commerce secretary said he would divest himself of all of his stock holdings and invest the proceeds in U.S. Treasury bonds. It wasn’t immediately clear what that would involve. Ross sold his interest in several private-equity funds in October valued at between $7.5 million and $36 million.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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