In a Trump cabinet whose poorest potential member is on Theranos’ board, it is saying something to be the king of the potential conflict of interest. And yet let it be said of private equity titan Wilbur Ross, tapped to be the next commerce secretary if he and the Senate can ever figure out exactly what it is that he owns, controls and influences around the globe.
With business ties that span the globe, Mr. Ross’s finances are complex even by the standards of the other wealthy individuals nominated to the cabinet of President-elect Donald Trump. His personal finances and reputation as the “King of Bankruptcy” are so intertwined with WL Ross & Co., the firm he founded to bet big on distressed industries, that it is difficult to tell where the firm’s financial interests end and his begin.
Mr. Ross’s links to firms from steel titan ArcelorMittal SA to the Bank of Cyprus Group will make vetting him for conflicts of interest a challenge….
A delay in making Mr. Ross’s financial information public has put a spotlight on these issues. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation pushed back Mr. Ross’s planned confirmation hearing two days before it was scheduled to give him more time to map out what he owns and how he plans to avoid conflicts of interest.
For most cabinet nominees in the pre-MAGA era, this was pretty easy: Quit your job, resign from your board seats, and put everything into mutual funds managed by a blind trust. Ross’ p.e. empire, however, looks even harder to unwind even than Treasury secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin’s, or jack-of-all-trades-designate Anthony Scaramucci's, who has to unload something no one wants.
In early, more innocent times, that might be a problem. But this is Donald Trump’s America, a post-truth world in which conflicts of interest don’t really exist. And the president-elect has certainly set a standard that Ross or anyone else can meet.
Private-equity investments are by nature illiquid and more difficult to sell than stocks and bonds, raising questions about how quickly Mr. Ross can dissociate himself from past dealings without incurring losses….
Mr. Ross directed queries to a transition official, who said the cabinet nominee would fully comply with conflict-of-interest laws and President-elect Trump’s guidance, and sell whatever assets the Office of Government Ethics tells him to.
See? No problem. ‘Cause that guidance is perfectly clear.