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Ethics watchdog declines to certify Wilbur Ross disclosure report

By Clyde Hughes
Ethics watchdog declines to certify Wilbur Ross disclosure report
The Office of Government Ethics declined to certify disclosure documents from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R) after they found he had not divested from a bank after claiming he had. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Office of Government Ethics declined to certify a financial disclosure report from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week because he has not divested from a bank despite claiming otherwise.

The revelation, reported Tuesday by the Center for Public Integrity, brought claims that the Commerce secretary purposely tried to mislead federal officials.

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A document from the office noted by director Emory Rounds and dated Feb. 15 said Ross's disclosure report was not certified because Ross said it stated that he "no longer held BankUnited stock while the transaction report dated Oct. 31, 2018 demonstrates that he did and because the filer was therefore not in compliance with his ethics agreement at the same time of the report."

CNBC reported that a previous federal ethics agreement required that Ross divest stock worth $1,000 to $15,000 in BankUnited by the end of May 2017, or within 90 days of the Senate confirming as Commerce secretary.

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The Center for Public Integrity reported in December that Ross submitted statements twice to federal ethics officials that he had divested the stock, but another transaction filing last October showed he still owned it. Rounds wrote in a letter dated Feb. 15 that Ross's financial disclosure report was not accurate.

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Ross said he believed that his agent sold the stock but had not. He said his October transaction report "corrected an earlier filing" and restated his belief that the shares were sold on May 31, 2017, when he originally reported divesting them.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Finance, accused Ross of not being truthful on his disclosures.

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"Trump's own ethics watchdog today confirmed that Secretary Ross violated his ethics agreement and federal ethics laws by lying about stock holdings he was supposed to divest," Wyden said.

"Ross lied repeatedly, for years, about selling off stocks that posed a conflict of interest. Ross continues to show open disdain for the most basic checks on corruption," he continued.

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