Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the more obscure members of Donald Trump’s cabinet, has suddenly come into the news since being named in the Paradise Papers as having dealings with companies that shield the profits of the wealthy oligarchy from taxes by passing them through off-shore companies set up in various small island nations. Normally, people might be embarrassed by such a disclosure but in Ross’s case he might actually welcome this news that links him with other wealthy tax avoiders since he has been fighting a different battle, to try and convince people, and especially Forbes magazine, that he is wealthier than he is.
Fresh off a tour through Thailand, Laos and China, United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. picked up the phone on a Sunday afternoon in October to discuss something deeply personal: how much money he has. A year earlier, Forbes had listed his net worth at $2.9 billion on The Forbes 400, a number Ross claimed was far too low: He maintained he was closer to $3.7 billion. Now, after examining the financial-disclosure forms he filed after his nomination to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which showed less than $700 million in assets, Forbes was intent on removing him entirely.
Ross protested, citing trusts for his family that he said he did not have to disclose in federal filings. “You’re apparently not counting those, which are more than $2 billion,” he said. When asked for documentation, the 79-year-old demurred, citing “privacy issues.” Told that Forbes nonetheless planned to remove him from the list for the first time in 13 years, he responded: “As long as you explain that the reason is that assets were put into trust, I’m fine with that.” And when did he make the transfer that allowed him to not disclose over $2 billion? “Between the election and the nomination.”
So began the mystery of Wilbur Ross’ missing $2 billion. And after one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer: That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004.
The rest of the article goes on to detail how Ross is driven by ambition not only to make money but to make everyone aware that he is wealthy, and that he was willing to lie shamelessly to achieve that goal, continually fighting with Forbes to increase his listed wealth despite not being able to substantiate his claims.
The very wealthy have more money than they can possibly spend but they want more because that is how they keep score in their competition with other wealthy people. It seems truly pathetic to whine merely about being removed from a list of wealthy people. But then, these people are not like you and me.