Major New Boston Globe Article Recounts Circumstances of Romney’s Bain Departure

I know everyone is focused on the Colorado shooting, but I feel as if I need to post this new information about Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital.

New interviews and public records research by Boston Globe reporters Beth Healy and Michael Kranish make it clearer than ever that Romney was still in control of the company during his “leave of absence” to manage the 1999 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Interviews with a half-dozen of Romney’s former partners and associates, as well as public records, show that he was not merely an absentee owner during this period. He signed dozens of company documents, including filings with regulators on a vast array of Bain’s investment entities. And he drove the complex negotiations over his own large severance package, a deal that was critical to the firm’s future without him, according to his former associates.

Indeed, by remaining CEO and sole shareholder, Romney held on to his leverage in the talks that resulted in his generous 10-year retirement package, according to former associates.

“The elephant in the room was not whether Mitt was involved in investment decisions but Mitt’s retention of control of the firm and therefore his ability to extract a huge economic benefit by delaying his giving up of that control,” said one former associate, who, like some other Romney associates, spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the company.

Romney originally planned to take a leave of absence, while contributing part-time to Bain. It was agreed that “five managing directors” would be in charge while he was away. Romney was technically no longer involved in investment decisions, but he had legal control of the firm.

Basically, Romney wanted a huge golden parachute, and retaining control of Bain gave him leverage. He was still the boss, even if he had let go of micromanaging every new project and decision. The reporters talked to

James Cox, a professor of corporate and securities law at Duke University, [who] said Bain’s continued reference to Romney as CEO and sole shareholder indicated that Romney was still the final authority. Moreover, Cox said, Romney would likely have been updated regularly about Bain Capital’s profits while he was negotiating his severance package. As a result, Cox said, Romney’s statement that he had no involvement with “any Bain Capital entity” appears “inconsistent” with his actions.

“If he is 100 percent owner, I just find it incredible that what I would call ‘big decisions’ — acquisitions, restructuring, changes in business policy — that they would not have passed on to him on an informational basis, not asking for formal approval but just keeping him in the loop,” Cox said.

Romney’s departure left Bain in a somewhat chaotic state. The remaining partners were worried about their ability to raise funds for takeovers without their former boss. Some of the partners chose to leave Bain and begin their own firms “rather than go through the limbo transition.”

I seems quite clear that Romney has lied on disclosure forms on which he has stated that after February 11, 1999 he “was not involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.”

What I can’t understand is why he didn’t just lay out all these facts and simply deal with any criticisms about investments that Bain made between 1999 and 2002. He benefited financially from those decisions anyway–and is still benefiting from Bain investments. But now he looks dishonest as well as ruthless toward workers who suffered when Bain outsourced their jobs or drove their employers into bankruptcy.

CNN also published an important article about Romney and Bain today. The author is Roberta Karmel, a former SEC commissioner who is now Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School. Karmel has been quoted in the Boston Globe’s previous articles on Romney’s separation from Bain. Karmel explains in detail why Romney can’t avoid responsibility for Bain between February 11, 1999 and early 2002 when he officially resigned as CEO and presumably transferred some of his shares to the new managing partners.

The contradictory representations in the Government Ethics Office and SEC filings are at best evasive and at worst a violation of federal law. A federal statute — 18 U.S.C. § 1001 — provides that anyone who “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully — (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” shall be fined or imprisoned. Violations of federal securities laws, including the making of false statements in a 13D filing, are independently punishable under the securities laws….

Romney is not now claiming his 13D filings were inaccurate or false, but he is claiming that although he was chief executive officer, managing director, chairman and president of Bain Capital, he was not really there, but in Utah managing the Winter Olympics. Nevertheless, he was earning more than $100,000 in salary from Bain. Since he will not release his income tax returns for 1999-2002, we have no idea how high this salary really was.

If Romney was not “involved” in the operations of Bain Capital, why was he being paid? As sole shareholder, why did he keep himself on as CEO? Also, at least with respect to the Stericycle deal, he invested as an individual along with the Bain entities. Why is Romney’s story about his relationship to Bain and its investment activities at odds with the documents his firm filed?

There’s much more, so if you’re interested, be sure to check out the entire article. I assume the Obama campaign will quickly latch onto this new information. Will Romney try to explain, or will he continue to resort to the “pathos of the plutocrat” as described in Paul Krugman’s latest column–whining because he isn’t getting the deference that he feels is his due as one of the super-rich? Krugman:

Like everyone else following the news, I’ve been awe-struck by the way questions about Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he founded, and his refusal to release tax returns have so obviously caught the Romney campaign off guard. Shouldn’t a very wealthy man running for president — and running specifically on the premise that his business success makes him qualified for office — have expected the nature of that success to become an issue? Shouldn’t it have been obvious that refusing to release tax returns from before 2010 would raise all kinds of suspicions?

By the way, while we don’t know what Mr. Romney is hiding in earlier returns, the fact that he is still stonewalling despite calls by Republicans as well as Democrats to come clean suggests that it could be something seriously damaging.

Anyway, what’s now apparent is that the campaign was completely unprepared for the obvious questions, and it has reacted to the Obama campaign’s decision to ask those questions with a hysteria that surely must be coming from the top. Clearly, Mr. Romney believed that he could run for president while remaining safe inside the plutocratic bubble and is both shocked and angry at the discovery that the rules that apply to others also apply to people like him. Fitzgerald again, about the very rich: “They think, deep down, that they are better than we are.”

Stay tuned….


9 Comments on “Major New Boston Globe Article Recounts Circumstances of Romney’s Bain Departure”

    • RalphB says:

      The Welchs should crawl back under their very expensive, and company paid for, rock!

  1. pdgrey says:

    I was going to write a comment, but I hit the comment button with the help of my dog. I knew you linked yo the last Krugman piece but, well “hello little damn doggie.” HA!

  2. Seriously says:

    Exactly. I don’t understand how, as a purely political animal with no interest in policy or governing, Mitt thought he could refuse to release his returns and nobody would make an issue of it. It’s amazing how much he’s floundered over something that was completely predictable when there are numerous strategies for dealing with this type of thing in the standard Axlerovian playbook.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I think Krugman has really put his finger on it. Mitt and Ann are used to being flattered and deferred to. They really never expected that they would be asked to follow the same rules as “you people.”

      • northwestrain says:

        I agree — Krugman hit the nail on the head.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        I agree. Why would Romney even consider any of this would happen? He has lived his life under a completely different set of rules and laws. We’ve all recognized how “out of touch” he is. We’ve even alluded to him living in an alternate reality. The truth is, he’s lived in The Elite World all his life, which is completely separate from the “real” world of all the rest of us. It’s next to impossible to predict the unknown.