What its like to be really rich in America, as shown in the disclosures of one of Trump’s cabinet picks

Ross in November.
Ross in November.
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Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s pick for US Commerce secretary, began his Senate confirmation hearing this morning. Unlike some of Trump’s nominees, he filed financial disclosure forms complete enough to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) before the hearing commenced. And they depict a revealing example of how great wealth in America is amassed and maintained.

Ross’s 57-page financial disclosure form (pdf), which the OGE published over the weekend, details the sprawling business empire the 79-year-old has built through a career that specialized in taking over bankrupt and under-performing companies, slashing costs and often firing workers to make them profitable. His net worth—nearly $3 billion, Bloomberg estimates—is scattered among hundreds of funds, management accounts, and stock holdings. Many of these entities are overseas, some in notorious tax havens. Bloomberg calculates that the form lists only $336 million, though, because the OGE doesn’t require disclosure of the value of stakes in some assets.

Ross holds 82 “positions outside US government,” most of them as a board member or managing partner, in a wide array of investment companies, limited liability corporations, and funds. Many are headquartered in locations like the Cayman Islands, part of the British Overseas Territories, which hold an estimated one third of the world’s offshore wealth.

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Ross holds about 400 “employment assets, income, and retirement accounts,” including stock worth between $10 and $50 million in fund manager Invesco. (The OGE doesn’t require nominees to disclose exact amounts, only ranges.) These assets and accounts, too, include dozens of companies headquartered in tax havens. Under “other assets and income,” he lists an art collection estimated at “over $50 million,” two bank accounts with “over $50 million” in cash in them, and cash on hand worth $5 to $25 million, as well as several smaller cash accounts:

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As Commerce secretary, Ross will be tasked, as Penny Pritzker was before him, with helping to “create the conditions for growth and opportunity,” and would be the “voice of American business” inside the president’s cabinet. In reality, he is likely to shoulder an even larger role. Ross is expected to take up Trump’s pledge to invest an additional $1 trillion in infrastructure over the next 10 years, much of it from private funding.

The Commerce department’s annual budget of $10 billion makes it one of the smaller agencies, but its nearly 44,000 employees already oversee everything from the US census, to the patent office, to regional development programs. To eliminate conflicts of interest, Ross will resign his positions in fund manager Invesco and WL Ross, his bankruptcy advisory company, his ethics disclosure shows (pdf). He will also

  • donate his income from a Rothschild & Co. profit-sharing plan to a charity
  • retire from 12 positions with companies in which he has no financial interest, including The Partnership for New York City
  • resign from 22 positions in companies in which he has financial interest, and sell those holdings
  • sell stock and other assets within 180 days of confirmation in 180 entities, including Apple and Arcelor Mittal

Ross is, however, retaining some assets, including in real-estate financing and transatlantic shipping. He will also keep at least two residences, including a 30th-floor apartment at 781 Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan.