Wyden Refers Questionable Ross Stock Trades to Justice Department for Investigation
WASHINGTON — Following serious concerns raised by federal ethics officials about questionable stock trades by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today formally requested a Justice Department investigation whether the trades violated federal law.
The Office of Government Ethics wrote late last week that Ross’s violations of his ethics agreement – including failing to sell stocks and opening new short sale positions of other stocks “created the potential for a serious criminal violation” and “could have placed [Ross] in a position to run afoul of the primary criminal conflict of interest law.”
“The top federal ethics watchdog confirmed what anyone with eyes and ears already knew: Wilbur Ross’s stock trades seriously compromised his ability to act in America’s best interests, and may have broken the law,” Wyden said. “In light of this report, the Justice Department should conduct a thorough investigation to ensure that Ross was working on behalf of the American people and not just his own bank account.”
Wyden questioned Ross last month about the timing and circumstances of his stock trades. Read Sec. Ross’s response to Wyden’s questions here.
Read Wyden’s full letter to the Justice Department here.
A web version of this release is available here.
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
Attached please find correspondence to the Secretary of Commerce from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), regarding potential criminal ethical violations related to Secretary Ross’ personal financial activity and his failure to properly report and divest his financial holdings. According to OGE Acting Director David J. Apol, Secretary Ross “opened new short positions on various holdings that [he] committed to divesting in [his] Ethics Agreement, in contravention of that agreement.” OGE also noted that Secretary Ross failed to meet divestiture deadlines as required by his ethics agreement, and that he misrepresented in his Certification of Ethics Agreement Compliance that he had met those requirements. OGE noted that Secretary Ross’ “failure to divest created the potential for a serious criminal violation.”
On June 21, 2018, I wrote to Secretary Ross with a series of questions to provide him the opportunity to clarify the intent behind his potentially illegal financial activity. His June 29, 2018 response did not adequately justify the activity in question. In fact, his representation to me that “he has “sought to comply scrupulously with federal ethics laws” is clearly undermined by OGE’s assertion that Secretary Ross “neglected to seek advice from the Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) of [his] Department or other ethics staff prior to” engaging in the financial activity in question. Also attached is a copy of my letter to Secretary Ross and his response.
Based on my correspondence with Secretary Ross, and grave concerns highlighted by OGE Acting Director David J. Apol, I am requesting that the Department of Justice examine Secretary Ross’s financial transactions and disclosure reports for potential criminal violations of 18 U.S.C. § 208.