Federal Politics

Published — November 7, 2017 Updated — November 14, 2017 at 8:13 am ET

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sells shipping investment

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears on Oct. 12, 2017, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Controversial asset was focus of Center for Public Integrity investigation

Introduction

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has divested his interest in Diamond S Shipping Group Inc., one of the world’s largest owners and operators of medium-range tanker vessels and the subject of a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

Ross “has fully divested of his interest in Diamond S. Shipping,” Commerce Department spokesman James Rockas said today, in response to questions from the Center for Public Integrity. Ross is currently in Beijing, traveling with President Donald Trump.

Critics have raised questions about whether overseas shipping investments are appropriate for Ross, who is among the Trump administration’s most influential trade policy players. Most of Diamond S Shipping’s fleet sails under Chinese flags, and the company has ties to a major Chinese investment fund.

Its ships have also visited ports in Russia and Iran — two nations that have for years found themselves in conflict with U.S. interests, and particularly so during Donald Trump’s nascent presidency.

Ross, who this week has also come under scrutiny for a separate shipping investment with ties to Russia, was not immediately available for comment. Rockas could not immediately say exactly when Ross shed his stake in Diamond S Shipping.

Diamond S Shipping did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Update, 6:07 p.m., Nov. 7: Randi Strudler of Jones Day, a lawyer representing Diamond S Shipping, said the company is owned by investment funds and does not have any independent way to verify the identities of those owning a stake in the investment funds at any given time.)

Ross had been non-executive chairman of Diamond S Shipping’s board, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and agreed to step down from his position with the company when he took the Commerce Department job, according to his public ethics agreement.

But during his confirmation hearing for the commerce secretary position, Ross confirmed he had no plans to divest his stake in Diamond S Shipping, and maintained that his investment didn’t pose a conflict.

“The research we’ve done suggests that there has never been a shipping case come before the Department of Commerce,” he said according to a hearing transcript, adding, “I intend to be quite scrupulous about recusal and any topic where’s there the slightest scintilla of doubt.”

A Center for Public Integrity examination of Diamond S Shipping’s operations, however, found the company’s operations raised complex conflict-of-interest concerns.

Diamond S Shipping’s vessels call at ports all over the world. One of its main customers, commodities giant Glencore PLC, last year acquired a stake in Russian national oil company Rosneft, a deal that drew scrutiny from American and European regulators.

The Glencore-Rosneft deal marked the biggest foreign investment in Russia since the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions in 2014 because of the country’s military occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Rosneft is under U.S. sanctions. Glencore said the deal complied with the sanctions. Asked if the deal violated the spirit of the sanctions, Amos Hochstein, then U.S. special envoy for international energy affairs, said, “Clearly this is not what we were hoping for when we implemented sanctions.”

Diamond S Shipping said it has — and may continue to — “call on ports located in countries subject to sanctions and embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and countries identified … as state sponsors of terrorism, such as Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria,” according to its 2014 filing with the SEC.

Diamond S Shipping is based in Greenwich, Connecticut, but is incorporated offshore in the Marshall Islands.

Ross’s use of offshore holding companies and his stake in another shipping company, Navigator Holdings, also drew attention this week.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the New York Times reported as part of the Paradise Papers investigation that Navigator’s biggest customer was a Russian company with ties to both a Russian oligarch under U.S. sanctions and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Ross said he would probably sell his Navigator stake.

“I’ve been actually selling it anyway, but that isn’t because of this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ross has also this week faced questions from Forbes about the true value of his assets, and whether he properly reported them in federal financial disclosures.

This article was co-published by TIME, Public Radio International and the Buffalo News.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.