August 8, 2018 8:53 AM   Subscribe

“There are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.” New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting (Forbes)
posted by The Whelk (25 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
This is considered an entrepeneurial “feature” in a kleptocracy, not a bug.
posted by killdevil at 8:58 AM on August 8 [13 favorites]

Steal small, they put you in jail; Steal big, they put you in office.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:06 AM on August 8 [14 favorites]

I keep saying this over and over. If a Walgreen's cashier stole 120 dollars she would get handcuffs. A hedgefund manager steals 120 million and he gets a lawsuit and a settlement.
posted by Megafly at 9:12 AM on August 8 [47 favorites]

posted by SystematicAbuse at 9:16 AM on August 8 [17 favorites]

"Owning a hundred slum properties wasn't a crime, although living in one was, almost... If you had enough money, you could hardly commit crimes at all. You just perpetrated amusing little peccadilloes" - Men at Arms, by Terry Pratchett.
posted by ClingClang at 9:48 AM on August 8 [20 favorites]

It is difficult to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimates is worth some $700 million, might steal a few million from one of his business partners.

Really? Why?

How do you think he got to be worth some $700 million? Did he invent the question mark or something?

I mean, not to blow my own horn, like I'm some great imaginer or something, but I have no trouble imagining that at all.
posted by Naberius at 10:05 AM on August 8 [49 favorites]

I hang out at a forum where we follow a great many right-wing groups and individuals. From experience, I can tell you that a significant part of the Republican Party's base consists of people with criminal records or criminal inclinations. That's why they love Trump. He and his cronies are doing exactly what these people would do if they had the chance.

They don't abhor criminal acts; they admire them.

Our challenge as citizens in a democracy is to keep these types from gaining and holding power. In large part, that means we have to consistently vote - not just during presidential years, and not just national elections. In smaller part, that means understanding when it's futile to waste time trying to persuade someone over to your side. Hint: if they're proud of committing crimes, or always find excuses for it, don't bother with them. They'll go for the person/party who feels/acts the way they do.
posted by Lunaloon at 10:19 AM on August 8 [13 favorites]

Recommended companion listening: Taking Trump’s corruption seriously. It's an hour of Ezra Klein talking to Adam Davidson (formerly of Planet Money) about various forms of corruption in the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation. Davidson recently wrote an article about A Theory of Trump Kompromat too, which he briefly touches on.

I know it sounds like "yet another story about Trump being a crook". And it is. But it has a really powerful broad perspective; what if the primary Trump narrative is about him constantly on the grift trying to make enough money to stay afloat? Towards the end they touch on his various colleagues like Ross, how Trump's obvious and continuous fraud serves as a signal to everyone in his administration that they should go right ahead and profit however they can.
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]

That's why they love Trump. He and his cronies are doing exactly what these people would do if they had the chance.

And they think that everyone else would, too. And if you can't figure out what those people's crimes are, it's just because you haven't investigated them enough. And if you investigate them for decades and still don't come up with anything, it's just because you haven't imagined the right crimes. That's why Qanon and the Magical Disappearing Basement Pedophile Ring took hold so easily.

People who are only obviously corrupt are more trustworthy than the ones who look squeaky clean.
posted by Etrigan at 11:21 AM on August 8 [13 favorites]

It keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.
posted by AugustWest at 11:34 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]

That makes surprising sense Etrigan. They cheat on their taxes as a matter of course and cannot conceive of anybody who would willingly pay their fair share.
posted by Megafly at 11:34 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]

How do you think he got to be worth some $700 million? Did he invent the question mark or something?

I am definitely stealing that line to use every time the topic of someone’s wealth comes up in conversation.
posted by TedW at 1:21 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]

How much will this question cost me? (Ohhhhh sheeeeee)
posted by sammyo at 2:36 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]

SAIT except now there’s a 2.95 surcharge to cover royalties owed to IRFH.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:23 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]

Also, your soul.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:28 PM on August 8

This gaslighting prick used to be my neighbor.
posted by brujita at 3:50 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]

brujita: This gaslighting prick used to be my neighbor.

He sounds like a nightmare. I imagine him figuring out how to steal your property one piece at a time. "Uh, Wilbur, isn't that fence two feet over the property line and into my yard?" "No regulatory agency has said I did anything wrong! It's mine!"
posted by clawsoon at 4:23 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]

This is bad.
posted by latkes at 9:47 PM on August 8

When we overthrow the government or start a new county or whatever, we need to strike down this category of reality:

just before the start of a trial with $4 million on the line, Ross and Storper agreed to a confidential settlement, whose existence has never been reported and whose terms remain secret.

NDAs, secret settlements, these mechanisms have been gamed in such a way to enable the rich powerful abuser to flourish. I'm not a lawyer, but I'd like to read a proposal by someone with expertise in comparative legal studies or something for a system that does not work this way when it comes to billionaires who hold federal office.
posted by latkes at 9:53 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]

He built a structure in a place he shouldn't have.
posted by brujita at 9:54 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

As far as going to jail or not, it's not how much you steal; it's how much more you have when they catch you.
posted by davejay at 3:19 PM on August 9

When I brought this up to a friend, I was told that he's old and that makes it okay.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:35 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]

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