Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears stuck in a “Catch 22”. Either he made false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission (a felony), or he lied to the American public in claiming not to have had any role at Bain Capital during the years 1999-2002. Either way he’s stuck in a credibility gap.
This controversy caught fire when the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2012 that Romney was overseeing various deals at Bain Capital, during 1999-2002, which outsourced large numbers of American jobs overseas or offshore. Since the story broke, the Washington Post has issued a retraction. But in the meantime, the story has shifted away from jobs, and now centers on Romney’s problems with telling the truth.
Romney has made two different sets of contradictory statements about his financial and business activities in this regard. He signed off on numerous SEC filings which had him listed, correctly, as CEO at Bain Capital during 1999-2002. However, he also has made repeated public statements that he was no longer with Bain during that period. One or the other version is untrue. This is the issue on which he’s been lured into political entrapment.
It’s not so unusual for there to be some degree of discrepancy between an individual’s official listing as head of a company, and their actual material participation. Federal officials have commented to that effect privately. Alicia Mundy reported in the Wall Street Journal, “A top shareholder might be listed on Securities and Exchange Commission forms as an executive even if he has no role in day-to-day management, said the officials, who asked not to be named because they didn’t want to be drawn into a political battle.”
Per the Wall Street Journal, according to former SEC chairman Harvey Pitt, agency regulations required Bain to list Romney as executive so long as he owned controlling shares. “‘He had to be shown on those filings until his ownership of Bain shares was severed,’ said Mr. Pitt, a Republican who headed the SEC from 2001 to 2003 and is not affiliated with the Romney campaign.”
Documents Bain Capital filed with the SEC list him 4 variously as president, chairman or chief executive officer for Bain Capital-related entities through January 2002, as cited by the Boston Globe. Contrary to his Bain Capital filings with SEC, at least some of Romney’s federal election disclosure reports state that he left Bain Capital in February 1999.
According to the Wall Street Journal, people close to Mr. Romney said the “seeming contradictions between financial disclosures and SEC reports result from a misinterpretation of Mr. Romney’s departure terms from Bain Capital. He took a leave of absence from the investment firm in 1999 to run the struggling Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics, and didn’t sign his retirement contract until May 2001, when it became apparent he wouldn’t return to the company, these people said.”
By some accounts, Romney decided to retire from Bain Capital in 2001 to run for governor of Massachusetts, and only then did his intentions regarding Bain become clear. His retirement contract was made retroactive to Feb. 11, 1999.
Romney has insisted publicly that he was done with Bain by 1999. However, Romney’s detractors have him in a vice-grip on this. Says Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager for the Obama campaign, “either Mr. Romney misrepresented his role at Bain Capital to the SEC, which is a felony, or he misrepresented his role at Bain Capital to the American people to avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of his investments.”
On balance, news reports seem to indicate that Romney did indeed participate in Bain management materially during 1999-2002. That’s what we would expect from someone still listed as CEO. It’s just common sense. Romney was still Bain’s sole stockholder clear up until 2001, when he began transferring his Bain Capital shares to new partners.
Will Romney stick with what he told the SEC? Or will he stick with what he told American voters? Either way he comes out tarnished. He can’t get can’t get any traction now by charging his opponent with lying, because he already has defined himself as the candidate who does that. Even on matters as serious as possible perjury, he’s earned the election year title of the guy who will say anything for expediency. His candidacy is thus mortally flawed.