Wilbur Ross swiped free sweetener and didn't pay his domestic staff, according to Forbes report claiming he swindled $120 million

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross swindled more than $120 million out of former associates, according to a new report from Forbes.
  • The magazine also outlined some smaller allegations, which a Commerce Department spokesman has since called "petty."


Wilbur Ross, who has an estimated net worth of $700 million, stole free artificial sweetener, didn't pay his domestic staff, and pledged money to charity but never paid it, according to a damning new report which brands him as a serial grifter.

The US Commerce Secretary, who previously ran a private equity fund, is the subject of a bombshell report by Forbes that alleges that he swindled associates out of more than $120 million in total. The report is based on lawsuits and interviews with 21 former colleagues.

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Wilbur Ross's time as Commerce Secretary
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Wilbur Ross's time as Commerce Secretary
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks to the Economic Club of New York in New York City, U.S., October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stands behind U.S. President Donald Trump, who speaks at the Minority Enterprise Development Week White House awards ceremony, at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Defense Secretary James Mattis listen as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with members of his cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks next to U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang before a bilateral meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (3rd R) and Vice President Mike Pence (2nd R) join U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) for an event highlighting emerging technologies, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before a House Appropriations Subcommittee about the newly released 2018 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks next to Press Secretary Sean Spicer about new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber from the White House in Washington, U.S. April 25, 2017.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is welcomed by Japan's Minister of Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko at the start of their talks in Tokyo, Japan April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce as his wife Hilary watches, in Washington, DC, U.S. February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Wilbur Ross speaks, as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence watches, after being sworn in as Secretary of Commerce in Washington, DC, U.S. February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, chairman of Invesco Ltd subsidiary WL Ross & Co, departs Trump Tower after a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York, U.S., November 29, 2016. Picture taken November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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The supposed swindling outlined in the report — including Ross' trying to cut associates out of their share of money, taking money out of their accounts, and misleading investors — could rank Ross "among the biggest grifters in American history," Forbes reporter Dan Alexander wrote.

There were some smaller allegations, too.

According two ex-colleagues at Ross firm, WL Ross, the millionaire once took handfuls of Sweet'N Low packets from a nearby restaurant so he didn't have to go out and buy them for himself.

One added that workers at Ross' house in the Hamptons used to call the WL Ross offices claiming that Ross had not paid them.

Another two associates also accused Ross of pledging $1 million to an unnamed charity, then not paying up.

A Commerce Department spokesman appeared to deny all those claims, calling them "petty nonsense." The official added that Ross does not put sweetener in his coffee.

One of the biggest allegations in the Forbes report was that of Ross and his firm charging current and former company executives at least $48 million of improper fees. Private equity firms typically collect management fees from outside clients, but according to a lawsuit brought by three former WL Ross executives, the company charged them too.

According to Alexander, this practice "would be like a restaurant owner telling his employees that they can eat for free—while taking the meal money out of their paychecks." Ross says that case is "without merit."

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