Trump’s Mini-Me

Remember Mini-Me, the modestly-sized version of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers? It turns out President Trump has his own identical-but-more-compact minion: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

In a bombshell report on Monday, Forbes spoke with 21 of the one-time Wall Street titan’s former colleagues, who accused Ross of bilking them out of a combined $120 million over his career. “If even half of the accusations are legitimate,” Forbes wrote, “the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.”

Admittedly, this would hardly make Ross unique in Trump world. Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently resigned under a veritable avalanche of ethics scandals. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price also resigned after taking advantage of taxpayers. But compared to Ross’ scandals, theirs are of the penny-ante variety: chartered aircraft and expensive pens and weird, soundproof phone-booths. With Ross, we’re talking about $120 million.

Beyond the sheer size of the alleged malfeasance, the other thing that sets Ross apart from previously disgraced Trump toadies is style. The particular low cunning of Ross’ investment antics is almost a mirror image of Trump’s own.

Take how both billionaire claimants allegedly relieved their bankrollers of their money.

Invesco, the parent company of WL Ross & Co., the private equity company Ross founded and ran, reportedly had to pay out $43 million to settle various issues that former employees laid at Ross’ doorstep. Similarly, investors got left holding the bag when the Taj Mahal and Trump’s other casinos and projects went belly up. Trump even reportedly used corporate sleight of hand — creating new companies, selling assets between them — to protect his own personal finances as much as possible while offloading his debts onto other financiers.

But at least the victims in these cases are what the president would describe as Wall Street “killers.” Much worse is how Ross and Trump treated their customers.

Just before joining the White House, WL Ross actually paid the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a $2.3 million fine, and refunded its investors $11.9 million, after reportedly charging management fees in excess of what was promised. On top of that, three major executives at the firm — including Ross’ former number two, David Storper — are now suing Ross over at least $48 million in improper fees they say were charged over years and years.

“There are all sorts of fee issues,” one investor told Forbes. “But it was just the most egregious that I’ve seen.” Ross himself said the lawsuit from Stroper and the others is “without merit.”

Trump bilked his customers, too: Thousands of former students of Trump University recently finalized a $25 million settlement, aimed at getting their money back from the bygone real estate seminar. The “university” (it was never actually a licensed university) apparently used false advertising to sell its students pre-baked self-help material put together by third parties, and consistently tried to up-sell them on the most expensive “classes” available.

Ross and Trump …read more

Source:: The Week – Business


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