Earlier this year, President Trump noted "I just don't want a poor person" in charge of economic posts in his administration, then touted Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as "a very rich person" who was up to the task. But just how rich Ross really is is now up in the air, Forbes reports, noting it's yanked Ross off its billionaires list after a one-month probe revealed that $2 billion or so or Ross' alleged fortune "never existed," and that Ross had engaged in an "apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications, and whoppers" with the magazine going back 13 years. The discovery came when Ross, 79, contacted Forbes in October to refute his ranking: Last year he was listed with a net worth of $2.9 billion on the Forbes 400; he claimed he was worth closer to $3.7 billion. Then Forbes talked with 10 of Ross' ex-employees at his private equity firm, who noted a "penchant for misleading" that affected fellow workers and investors and spurred big fines, suits, and refunds to backers.
"Wilbur doesn't have an issue with bending the truth," one longtime colleague says, while another is more blunt: "He's lied to a lot of people." The magazine delves into Ross' back story, including how, when he first made the Forbes billionaires list in 2004 with a net worth of $1 billion, "everyone that I knew that worked with Wilbur knew it wasn't true," per a former colleague. When Forbes told Ross he was being removed from its billionaires club, Ross retorted the magazine wasn't counting family trusts that he wasn't obligated to inform the feds about—in the amount of "more than $2 billion," assets Ross said he put into the trusts sometime "between the election and [my] nomination." When Forbes asked to see a paper trail proving that, Ross cited "privacy issues"—and the magazine lays out other problems with Ross' story on the supposed $2 billion transfer. Read the in-depth findings here. (Read more Wilbur Ross stories.)