Trump’s Pick for Commerce Secretary May Have the Biggest Conflicts of Them All
Wilbur Ross has made a fortune in steel — and the Commerce Department will soon make decisions that will affect his firms. Derek Kravitz has a report in ProPublica:
Many of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks are titans of industry with significant potential business conflicts of interest.
But there is one in a class by himself: Commerce secretary choice Wilbur Ross.
Ross has made a fortune in the steel industry — an industry of which the Commerce Department has significant oversight. Indeed, government transition documents show that the Commerce Department is slated to make no fewer than five decisions about steel trade soon after the inauguration which will directly affect businesses that Ross has a stake in.
“It’s on a different order of magnitude and complexity than any other cabinet pick,” said Norman Eisen, the White House’s chief ethics lawyer in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. “Now it’s up to him to figure if he can do this job and, if so, how he can do it given his entanglements.”
Transition briefing documents, which ProPublica obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show how closely the Commerce Department is focused on enforcing and monitoring global steel supplies and demand. They makes clear how the department’s decisions could greatly benefit ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer, where Ross retains a stake and has long sat on the board (he was re-elected to a three-year term in 2015).
Among the impending decisions are rulings on unfair pricing investigations of steel imports from Belgium, France, Germany and Italy. The rulings are due within the first 100 days of the new Trump administration. (See the Commerce Department presidential transition briefing documents here.)
Ross has other potential conflicts. . .