Secretary says he will sell equity holdings after some divestitures were not made as promised

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said he will sell all his equity holdings and put them in U.S. Treasury securities after he got a stern letter from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

The letter informed Ross' his financial disclosure forms contained various omissions and inaccurate statements" due to the fact he had failed to divest some assets he reported had been divested and opened short positions in other holdings he had committed to divest.

David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel of the ethics office, wrote Ross that while no criminal violations had been identified, his failure to divest had left the potential for "serious criminal violation."

"As the acting director of OGE, I am writing to you to express my concern regarding how recent actions on your part may have negatively affected the public trust," Apol said.

Ross linked to the letter in a statement emailed to B&C/Multichannel News in which he conceded he had made mistakes but signaled he was not going anywhere.

"I take my ethics obligations very seriously and am committed to serving the American people," he said. "I have made inadvertent errors in completing the divestitures required by my ethics agreement. My investments were complex and included hundreds of items. I self-reported each error, and worked diligently with my department’s ethics officials to make sure I avoided any conflicts of interest."While he said his ethics agreement allowed him to retain the equity holdings, "[t]o maintain the public trust, I have directed that all of my equity holdings be sold and the proceeds placed in U.S. Treasury securities. I look forward to continuing to serve the American people."

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