Four weeks into his tenure, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has yet to fulfill his pledge to put all of his investments and business interests in a blind trust in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
Moore, a Democrat and first-time politician, has an array of investments, ranging from his own organizations for promoting his books and developing productions to shares of stock in high-profile companies. He also owns a partial stake in nearly two dozen limited liability corporations whose purpose is unclear.
Moore said on the campaign trail that he’d put his assets in a blind trust, which means that he would no longer control or make decisions about his investments.
“I’ve been very, very transparent with everybody that when I become the governor-elect, everyone is going to be very clear about where all of my intellectual focus is going to be,” Moore told The Baltimore Banner last fall.
On his first full day in office, Jan. 19, the first question posed to Moore by reporters was about his pledge of a blind trust.
“We said we want to have the highest measure of transparency and we are actually in the process right now of finalizing that,” the governor said.
Four weeks later, the governor has not yet finalized his trust, which will need approval from the State Ethics Commission before his assets can be moved.
“The Governor’s Office has worked closely with the State Ethics Commission to finalize this arrangement as quickly as possible and expects that this will be formalized in the near future,” Moore’s chief of staff, Fagan Harris, said in a statement in response to questions from The Baltimore Banner.
Pressed for further details on the timeline, Moore’s office said they hoped to send the proposal to the State Ethics Commission in the next few months.
Shortly after he won election in November, Moore said he resigned from several companies where he served on the board of directors, including Baltimore-based sneaker and apparel company Under Armour and multiple companies known as “blank check” firms that are formed with the purpose of buying other companies.
Earlier in the campaign, Moore resigned from the board of Green Thumb Industries, a multistate marijuana company that owns medical cannabis dispensaries in Maryland under the brand name RISE.
Moore continued to own stock in Green Thumb, Under Armour, the blank check companies and more, according to a financial disclosure statement filed in 2022. His financial disclosure ran 71 pages, including 42 pages listing investments printed out from the financial services company UBS.
Given his financial relationship with Under Armour, Moore recused himself himself from a routine vote involving the company on Wednesday. Those plans were first reported by The Baltimore Sun.
The Board of Public Works, which approves state contracts, voted to extend a lease the state has on an Under Armour warehouse at Tradepoint Atlantic in Baltimore County, where the state has been storing pandemic medical supplies.
Moore exited the meeting early when the section of the agenda with Under Armour came up, and he turned over leadership of the meeting to Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller.
Moore said he was acting on the advice of his lawyers and team to recuse himself while he continues to work on the trust.
“As I finalize all my arrangements to establish a blind trust to prevent any financial conflicts during my tenure as governor, my team and I have been in regular consultation with the Ethics Commission to ensure that we follow the spirit and the letter of the laws, and therefore I’m heeding their advice and counsel by recusing myself from the discussion and vote on one of the items,” Moore said.
He did not publicly identify the Under Armour contract as the item in question.
Comptroller Brooke Lierman, meanwhile, recused herself on a vote to make a settlement payout to a prisoner who had sued the state. She didn’t publicly explain the reason for her recusal, but her office later said the comptroller’s husband is a partner at one of the law firms involved in the case.
Moore’s next financial disclosure statement is due by April 30.
Moore has not released his tax returns, which is not required but is common for gubernatorial candidates in Maryland.
In 2020, the last full year that he worked at his prior job as CEO of the nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation in New York, Moore was paid $899,635 in salary plus $100,094 in other compensation.
In 2021, working for Robin Hood for a partial year, Moore was paid $611,234 in salary and $68,845 in other compensation. Moore announced he would resign effective May 2021 but was paid through July, according to Robin Hood’s tax filings.
Robin Hood’s tax return for 2021 also noted that Moore has a “business relationship” with Larry Robbins, a Robin Hood board member who is CEO of Glenview Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar hedge fund.
This article has been updated with additional information about the comptroller’s recusal from a Board of Public Works vote.