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Undated: Wilbur Louis Ross Jr. (born November 28, 1937) is an American investor and the current United States Secretary of Commerce. On November 30, 2016, then-President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Ross for that post. On February 27, 2017, the Senate confirmed him in a 72–27 vote. He was sworn into office on February 28, 2017.
Before he was appointed, Ross was a banker known for restructuring failed companies in industries such as: steel, coal, telecommunications, foreign investment and textiles and who specialized in leveraged buyouts and distressed businesses. In February 2017, Forbes magazine reported that Ross has a net worth of $2.5 billion. However, financial disclosure forms Ross filed after his nomination for Secretary of Commerce showed less than $700 million in assets, and Forbes removed him from their billionaires list in November 2017. He is often called the "King of Bankruptcy" because of his record of buying bankrupt companies, primarily in the manufacturing and steel industries, and later selling them for a large profit after operations improve.
In November 2017, leaked documents known as the Paradise Papers showed that Ross had failed to clearly disclose financial ties to Russian interests in his confirmation hearings.
-- 2017 --
November 5: Commerce Secretary's Offshore Ties to Putin 'Cronies'
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, retained investments in a shipping firm with business ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle.
After becoming commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr. retained investments in a shipping firm he once controlled that has significant business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law, according to newly disclosed documents.
The shipper, Navigator Holdings, earns millions of dollars a year transporting gas for one of its top clients, a giant Russian energy company called Sibur, whose owners include the oligarch and Mr. Putin’s family member. Despite selling off numerous other holdings to join the Trump administration and spearhead its “America first” trade policy, Mr. Ross kept an investment in Navigator, which increased its business dealings with Sibur even as the West sought to punish Russia’s energy sector over Mr. Putin’s incursions into Ukraine.
-- 2018 --
August 6: New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting
A multimillion dollar lawsuit has been quietly making its way through the New York State court system over the last three years, pitting a private equity manager named David Storper against his former boss: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The pair worked side by side for more than a decade, eventually at the firm, WL Ross & Co.—where, Storper later alleged, Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork. Two weeks ago, just before the start of a trial with $4 million on the line, Ross and Storper agreed to a confidential settlement, whose existence has never been reported and whose terms remain secret.
August 7: In an administration stocked with world-class grifters and ethically bankrupt officials whose tales of corruption dominate the headlines, it’s easy to forget that Wilbur Ross has been running scams since long before the Trump presidency was even a twinkle in Robert Mercer’s eye. Over the course of the past year, reports have emerged that the commerce secretary, among other things, lied about his net worth for at least a decade; was accused of financial crisis-era insider trading by European lawmakers; concealed his investments in a Russian shipping company with ties to Vladimir Putin; and allegedly bilked colleagues out of millions. But according to fresh allegations, screwing people out of their money appears to be less of a hobby for Ross and more of a lifestyle.
December 13: Inside the Trump Administration’s Census Scam
How Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is trying to rig American democracy for the GOP
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, is a liar. And according to lawsuits brought by former business partners, a thief. Now he’s attempting his biggest swindle yet: rigging the 2020 census to favor the Republican Party.
A vulture capitalist with no experience in government, whose private-equity firm was fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission for bilking investors out of millions, Ross was a tidy fit for Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which the president stocked with tycoons despite campaigning as a champion of the forgotten man. “I just don’t want a poor person,” Trump said of his top economic posts. He saw Ross — supposedly the richest of the lot — as a fellow traveler, a self-made billionaire with few scruples. Touting Ross at a rally in Cincinnati, Trump boasted, “I put on a killer.”
December 19: Wilbur Ross Not Even Trying to Avoid Looking Corrupt Anymore
Due to the plethora of unsavory grifters who’ve found themselves in the administration of Donald Trump over the past few years, Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has mostly managed to fly under the radar despite being, in many ways, as laughably corrupt as Scott Pruitt or Ryan Zinke.
Since last year, Ross has been the subject of a series of Forbes exposes which revealed—among other things—that Ross has been accused of stealing at least $123 million from his associates, and that he falsely told ethics officials, in sworn statements, that he had divested from his holdings in the Atlanta-based investment management firm Invesco (which also owns WL Ross and Associates, Ross’ private equity company) when he hadn’t. The Center for Public Integrity reported in July that Ross had made between $1.2 and $6 million more from the Invesco stock by selling it in December 2017 than he would have had he sold it at the time he claimed he did, at the end of May 2017—90 days after his February 2017 Senate confirmation, when he was legally obligated to due so under his ethics agreement.
“Wilbur Ross clearly is not taking his ethics obligations seriously.” Austin Evers, the executive director of the ethics watchdog group American Oversight, told the Center for Public integrity. ... He’s been warned and at this point he needs a full audit by OGE and probably Congress to make sure he’s not operating with blatant conflict of interest.”
-- 2019 --
January 12: Democrats are struggling to come up with a way to provide back pay for low-wage contractors losing income because of the partial shutdown, a complicated process that hasn’t been tackled during previous government closures.
Contracted maintenance workers, cleaners, security guards and cafeteria staff at government buildings are among the hardest hit by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22.
Unlike the hundreds of thousands of affected federal employees who often receive back pay after a shutdown ends, low-wage contractors are not afforded compensation once the government reopens.
January 16: Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would provide back pay to low-wage contractors affected by the government shutdown.
“This bill is about helping a group of people who are often invisible—people who work in the cafeterias, who clean offices after everyone else goes home, security guards who keep our buildings safe overnight,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), one of the bill’s sponsors.
Government agencies all contract with outside companies differently, and contracts can take hourly or lump sum forms. Some contracting companies are big, profitable companies that can shift workers around or continue paying them through a shutdown, while others are small operations that are forced to simply furlough their workers.
The legislation Democrats settled on aims to compensate those low-wage workers that show up to work in federal buildings every day, filling jobs that once would have been filled by direct government employees.
It would only apply to the set of contractors defined in existing legislation setting guidelines for federal contractors: the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act.
Those acts cover maintenance, security, food workers, custodians, construction and public works employees, as well as salaried administrative and professional workers, among others.
The maximum level of back pay the government would provide would be limited to $965 per week.
The legislation would also restore annual leave for the relevant contractors who were forced to use it during the shutdown.
January 24: In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross made waves by saying he does not understand why federal workers are visiting food banks during the partial government shutdown. He urged them to seek loans from banks and credit unions to supplement their lost wages.
“I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why,” Ross said when asked about federal workers going to food banks. Ross is a billionaire and a longtime friend of President Trump’s.
His comment drew criticism from Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude?” she said. “Or call your father for money?”
January 24: After criticism he's 'totally tone deaf,' Wilbur Ross walks back furloughed worker comments
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday afternoon defended his take on the financial challenges facing furloughed federal workers after saying earlier in the day that he did not "understand" why they might need help from homeless shelters and food banks.
Ross said in a second interview that his intention had been to make sure government workers were aware that loans could be an option as the shutdown continues.
"We're aware, painfully aware, that there are hardships inflicted on the individual workers,” Ross said on Bloomberg. “All I was trying to do was make sure that they are aware that there are possible other things that can help somewhat mitigate their problems."
January 24: The White House is working to quell a growing anger among the 800,000 federal workers who are scheduled to miss their second paycheck this week, as many have begun calling in sick or refusing to show up for work. The Trump administration has scrambled to try to deflect the impact of the shutdown on the economy, but they’ve done this in part by requiring thousands of unpaid federal workers to continue doing their jobs.
Many of those workers are beginning to revolt, either calling in sick or saying they can’t afford gasoline.
“It’s kind of disappointing that the air traffic controllers are calling in sick in pretty large number,” Ross said.
January 24: Many of those [furloughed] workers are beginning to revolt, either calling in sick or saying they can’t afford gasoline.
“It’s kind of disappointing that the air traffic controllers are calling in sick in pretty large number,” Ross said.
The government shutdown has now lasted 34 days, and several Republican senators have indicated they think it is time for an end to the shutdown with or without border wall funding. While the Democratic controlled House has repeatedly passed bills to reopen the government, Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refusd to bring a bill to the floor for a vote that Mr Trump would veto, even if there were majority support in the chamber.
Mr Ross continued: “So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that.”
Meanwhile, federal employees have begun showing up to food banks in their federal uniforms, while other stories of charity — a teenager donating a recently-won lifetime supply of peanut butter, for instance — have proliferated.
“It was a really sobering moment for her to have to step in and say, ‘I need help’”, Kellie O’Connell, the CEO of Lakeview Pantry in the Chicago area, told the Chicago Tribune of a federal employee who cried as she signed up for assistance.
Many of those workers live paycheck to paycheck, and have been forced to work second jobs to even pay for gas to get to work if they have been deemed “essential” and forced to work during the shutdown without pay.
January 25: Progressive strategist Navin Nayak said on Friday that the remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about how federal workers could get loans during the shutdown and avoid having to visit food banks could come back to haunt President Trump.
"I think this is a real vulnerability for the president as you think about his re-elect," Nayak, senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, told Hill.TV's Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on "Rising."
"He promised to remember the forgotten man, to hold Wall Street accountable, this just sort of reinforces who he's actually surrounded himself with, the kind of policies he's pushed for," he continued.
Ross on Thursday questioned in an interview with CNBC why thousands of federal workers, who've already missed one paycheck, are relying on food banks during the partial government shutdown.
January 26: Trump tried to clean up Wilbur Ross' tone-deaf comments on unpaid federal workers, didn't succeed
President Trump told reporters later Thursday that he hasn't "heard the statement, but I do understand that perhaps he should have said it differently." So Trump took a whack. In essence, he said local businesspeople would "work along" with unpaid federal employees, and he kept bringing up grocery stores.
The idea that a Walmart or Kroger or Safeway would give people food on personal credit (not credit cards) baffled a lot of people. Most of us "do not inhabit the world of Little House on the Prairie," noted New York's Sarah Jones. "Half Pint cannot go to the general store and place a dozen eggs on store credit until Pa's farm starts to make money."
January 26: Billionaires index ... [Wilbur] Ross is the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and former owner of W.L. Ross & Co., a private equity company. He started a series of value-focused investment funds in 2000 that paid him about $500 million in profits. He sold W.L. Ross to Invesco in 2006, collecting a payout of $265.5 million over a six-year period.
-- 2020 --
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