Meet Trump’s Pick for Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur “The Bankruptcy King” Ross

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The Bankruptcy King

Trump’s Nominee for Commerce Secretary 

Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. was selected to be President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Commerce Secretary. Known as the “bankruptcy king,” he is a careless, out-of-touch billionaire investment banker who has made a fortune exploiting workers and gutting companies. Ross thinks the 1% are unfairly criticized, and as the former president of a secret society of elite financial industry figures, he made homophobic and sexist jokes at an event that also featured skits and songs mocking the poor. He has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians over the years and supports a variety of policies that would hurt hard-working Americans, including increasing the retirement age on Social Security and outsourcing jobs.


Ross Is a Careless Wall Street Billionaire Who Hurt Workers and Retirees. He Has Ties to Russia and Owned the Sago Mine When a Preventable Explosion Killed Twelve Miners.

Despite repeatedly attacking the “rigged” system of Wall Street insiders, K Street lobbyists, and corrupt politicians during his campaign, President-elect Trump selected Wilbur Ross to serve as Commerce Secretary. Ross is a Wall Street insider who previously worked in private equity and became wealthy through mergers and acquisitions, and using bankruptcy laws to his advantage. [“Wilbur Ross Fast Facts,” CNN, December 1, 2016.]

Ross Is Called the “Bankruptcy King”

  • After working for the investment bank Rothschild Inc., in 2000 Ross opened his own private equity firm, WL Ross & Co. LLC. He later became a co-owner of the Bank of Ireland. [“Wilbur Ross Fast Facts,” CNN, December 1, 2016.]

His Company Paid $2.3 Million Fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission

  • WL Ross & Co. LLC, in August 2016, agreed “to pay a $2.3 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that it did not properly disclose some fees it charged investors.” The SEC said WL Ross “had failed to disclose how it calculates its fees for some funds, which led to investors paying roughly $10.4 million” in “management fees that they should not have.” [Koh Gui Qing, “SEC Fines Wilbur Ross Firm $2.3 Million over Fees,” Reuters, August 24, 2016.]

Ross Owned Sago Mine, Cited the Previous Year Over 200 Times for Safety Violations, When Preventable Explosion Killed Twelve Miners

  • In 2004 Ross formed the International Coal Group (ICG), which owned through a subsidiary the Sago Mine in West Virginia. In 2006, an “explosion at the Sago Mine, operated by ICG subsidiary Wolf Run Mining Co., [led] to the deaths of twelve miners.” Federal investigators said the disaster could have been prevented by “proper methane monitoring.” The Sago Mine had been cited “208 times in 2005 for safety violations.” Families of the dead and Randal McCloy, the lone survivor, sued “ICG and WL Ross & Co. claiming negligence.” The lawsuits were settled. [“Wilbur Ross Fast Facts,” CNN, December 1, 2016; and Adam Behsudi, “‘King of Bankruptcy’ Would Be Complicated Choice for Commerce,” Politico, November 23, 2016.]

“De Facto Business Partner” with Russian Businessman Who Has “Ties to the Kremlin”

Former President of Secret Society of “Around 200 of the Biggest Names” in the Financial Industry

  • Ross is a former “Grand Swipe,” or president, of Kappa Beta Phi, which is “a secret society of Wall Street bigwigs” that hosts annual galas where “around 200 of the biggest names in finance carry on like fraternity kids, hurling insults and dinner rolls at new recruits who prance through intentionally embarrassing skits dressed in drag.” Kappa Beta Phi has “counted as members the CEOs of nearly every major banking house on Wall Street.” [Shawn Tully, “Wall Street’s Secret Society is More Secretive Than Ever,” Fortune, January 17, 2014.]

Ross Is a Billionaire with Elitist Views on Important Issues Impacting Workers, Like Social Security and Outsourcing Jobs

Despite repeatedly attacking elites during his campaign, President-elect Trump still selected Ross–a billionaire elitist–to serve as Commerce Secretary.

Ross Wants to Raise Social Security Retirement Age

  • Ross wants to raise the Social Security retirement age. He does not know why doing so would be controversial. [Bloomberg TV, December 6, 2012.]

Ross Thinks Businesses Should Move Factories to Low Wage Countries

Ross Opposed Restrictions on Textile Imports from China, Produced Cheap Textiles in China, and Helped Chinese Businesses Sell in the United States 

  • Ross was “at odds” with “much of the U.S. textile industry,” which advocated for limiting imports from China. Shortly after establishing International Textile Group [ITG], Ross announced plans “to make denim, synthetic, cotton, and decorative fabrics in China.” In addition, his company helped “Chinese producers sell to the United States.” [Donald W. Patterson, “Ross Eyes Trade in Tactics for ITG,” News & Record, November 24, 2004.]

Ross is an Outspoken Supporter of Central American Free Trade Agreement

  • Ross was “an outspoken supporter” of CAFTA–the Central American Free Trade Agreement–because Mexican plants owned by Burlington Industries, of which Ross was the chairman, “would benefit as a denim-component supplier.” ITG, also chaired by Ross, pledged to “back up its commitment” to CAFTA by spending “$50 million to build a denim plant in Guatemala.” Ross described CAFTA as ”an opportunity to tie up NAFTA’s loopholes.” [Richard Craver, “Ten Years of NAFTA, New Free-Trade Policies Show Effects of Treaty,” Winston-Salem Journal, January 1, 2004; and Richard Craver, “Cone Takes Trade Step, Company to Build a Denim Plant in Central America,” Winston-Salem Journal, May 14, 2014.]

Ross Owns Luxurious Real Estate, Vacation Homes, and $150 Million Art Collection

He Said He Was Selling His 14-room NYC Penthouse (Complete With a 34-foot-long Ballroom) Because It Had an Erratic Elevator!

Ross is Worth Approximately $2.5 Billion

Ross Has an Art Collection Worth at Least $150 Million

  • Ross has an “art collection, conservatively valued at $150 million,” which includes “pieces ranging from Western surrealists to contemporary Eastern sculptures.” He and his wife “go to auctions hosted by Sotheby’s and Christie’s several times a year, in London and New York.” Additionally, “since the early 2000s Ross has also been collecting Chinese contemporary paintings, photographs, and sculptures. He now has about 200 pieces in total, including . . . a stylized scene of triumphant soldiers marching in Tiananmen Square . . . [that] hangs over a couch in his New York City office.” [Liyan Chen, “Billionaire Art Collector Wilbur Ross Loves Magrittes, Paid $100 Million For His Own,” Fortune, October 8, 2013.]
  • Ross’ art collection includes photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, who was a controversial photographer known for his sexualized subject matter, including works featuring “sadomasochistic sex;” and René Magritte’s Les Jours Gigantesques, which is “a disturbing rape scene portrayed like a film noir poster.” His paintings by “Magritte alone are worth about $100 million.” Ross paid $11.3 million for Les Jours Gigantesques (1928, oil on canvas), which can be seen below. [“$11.3 Million for Magritte Work,” Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2012; “Art Sales: Reward for a Prized, Precious Few,” Telegraph, June 26, 2012; Liyan Chen, “Billionaire Art Collector Wilbur Ross Loves Magrittes, Paid $100 Million For His Own,” Fortune, October 8, 2013; Kevin Moore, “Whipping Up a Storm: How Robert Mapplethorpe Shocked America,” Guardian, November 17, 2015; and Bob Fernandez, “A Reversal of Fortune: Investors Reap Millions on Revival of Bankrupt Steelmakers That Shed Pension and Medical Promises to Retirees,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 25, 2016.]

Ross Owns Luxurious Real Estate and Vacation Homes that Have Been Featured in Architectural Digest

Ross Put His Fourteen-Room New York City Penthouse with a Thirty-Four-Foot-Long Ballroom on the Market Because the Elevator was Erratic


Ross Thinks the 1% Are Unfairly Criticized, but Was Caught Making Homophobic and Sexist Jokes at Event That Included Skits and Songs Mocking the Poor

Despite his call for “unity,” and his claims that he would “do everything in [his] power to protect LGBT citizens” and that “no one respects women more than” him, President-elect Trump still selected Wilbur Ross to serve Commerce Secretary, despite Ross’ history of making homophobic and sexist jokes. [Jessica Taylor, “Trump Calls for Unity, Healing in Thanksgiving Address,” NPR Politics, November 23, 2016; James West, “Trump Calls Himself a Champion of Gay Rights. Hang on a Second.,” Mother Jones, August 15, 2016; and Chris Gayomali, “Donald Trump Says No One Respects Women More Than Him, Calls Political Rival a Nasty Woman,” GQ online, October 19, 2016.]

During His Time as President of a Secret Society of “the Biggest Names” in the Financial Industry, Ross Made Homophobic and Sexist Jokes at an Event That Featured Skits and Songs “Mocking Poor People.”

  • Ross is a former “Grand Swipe,” or president, of Kappa Beta Phi, which is “a secret society of Wall Street bigwigs” that hosts annual galas where “around 200 of the biggest names in finance carry on like fraternity kids, hurling insults and dinner rolls at new recruits who prance through intentionally embarrassing skits dressed in drag.” Kappa Beta Phi has “counted as members the CEOs of nearly every major banking house on Wall Street.” [Shawn Tully, “Wall Street’s Secret Society Is More Secretive Than Ever,” Fortune, January 17, 2014.]

But He Thinks “the 1 Percent Is Being Picked On”


Trump Picked GOP Insider and Mega-Donor Ross Despite Repeatedly Attacking the GOP Establishment

Despite repeatedly attacking the Republican establishment during his campaign, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is a GOP mega-donor and party insider.

Ross Has Donated More Than $750,000 to Candidates Including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

  • Ross has given more than $750,000 to federal candidates over the last 25 years, including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, and John Boehner. He was an elite fundraiser for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and attended a yacht party for those who “raised more than $1 million each for Romney’s presidential effort.” [Based on Data from Political Money Line; and Jason Horowitz and Dan Eggen, “Mega-Donors Lavished with Attention at Convention Parties,” Washington Post, August 29, 2102.]

Ross Is Friends with David Koch of the Koch Brothers

  • Ross and his wife “threw the Avenue Magazine fête in honor of Julia and David H. Koch. ‘We are friendly with the Kochs so when they approached us we thought, ‘Why not?’’ Mr. Ross recalled.” Ross’ wife said, “I love to entertain and I have so much admiration for the Kochs and their philanthropy.” [Benjamin-Emile Le Hay, “Friends With Benefits: Billionaires Share Their Wares,” Observer, October 9, 2014.]

Ross Was Once Married to New York’s Former Republican Lt. Governor Who Was Accused of Misusing Her State Police Guard to Chauffeur Them and Wait While They “Ate Late-Night Ritzy Dinners”

  • When Betsy McCaughey Ross, the second wife of Wilbur Ross, was New York’s lieutenant governor, she was “stripped of her state police guard” after being accused of having the state police chauffeur her “from party to party” and waiting while she and Wilbur Ross “ate late-night ritzy dinners.”  [Michael Finnegan, “Security Pulled, Betsy’s on Attack,” New York Daily News, March 14, 1996; and Michael Tomasky, “The Punishing of Betsy McGaughey,” New York Magazine, May 13, 1996.]

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