Updated at 3:55 pm and 6 pm EDT
What role did Mitt Romney play at Bain Capital and when did he play it?
The Boston Globe today has raised a question about Romney’s insistence that he left the private equity firm that he had co-founded in February 1999 — an issue relevant to the presidential campaign underway because of what happened with employment at some of the companies Bain purchased and what the Obama campaign is saying about all that.
“Government documents filed by Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time,” the former governor of Massachusetts’s hometown paper reports today.
“The article is not accurate,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul responds today in an e-mail. “As Bain Capital has said, as Governor Romney has said, and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Governor Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point.”
Romney remained the sole stockholder of Bain Capital LLC even after leaving in 1999 to run the Winter Olympics, the private-equity fund said after questions were raised about when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee departed the firm.
Bain, based in Boston, said in a statement today that it took a while to transfer ownership to Romney’s successors “due to the sudden nature” of his decision to run the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Until the ownership situation was resolved, Romney continued to be listed as the sole stockholder and in various executive positions in Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the company said.
“Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Olympics and has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure,” the company said.
The Globe reported that Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state that Romney remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.” The paper also cites a Massachusetts financial disclosure form that Romney filed in 2003 stating he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. Romney’s state financial disclosure forms also showed him earning at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.
The timing is important, the paper notes, because Romney’s campaign has maintained he was not responsible for Bain-owned companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after he left. Democrats, and President Barack Obama’s campaign in particular, have pointed to those job losses in TV ads and Web-videos challenging Romney’s self-styled image in the presidential campaign as a job creator. Romney has claimed Bain’s successes created more than 100,000 jobs during his tenure.
A footnote in Romney’s most recent federal financial disclosure form, filed June 1 as a presidential candidate, stated: “Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.”
The Romney campaign today is pointing to a FactCheck.org report:
“After reviewing evidence cited by the Obama campaign, we reaffirm our conclusion that Romney left the helm of Bain Capital when he took a leave of absence in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics – as he has said repeatedly — and never returned to active management. The Obama campaign’s recent ads thus mislead when they point to investments made by Bain, as well as management decisions made by companies in which Bain invested, after that time.” (Brooks Jackson and Robert Farley, with Eugene Kiely, “FactCheck to Obama Camp: Your Complaint is All Wet.”)
The Globe cites a former SEC commissioner saying the documents listing Romney as Bain’s chief executive between 1999 and 2002 cannot be dismissed so easily.
“You can’t say statements filed with the SEC are meaningless. This is a fact in an SEC filing,” Roberta S. Karmel, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, told the Globe. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say he was technically in charge on paper but he had nothing to do with Bain’s operations.”
Karmel also suggested this about the filings: “If someone invested with Bain Capital because they believed Mitt Romney was a great fund manager, and it turns out he wasn’t really doing anything, that could be considered a misrepresentation to the investor.”
Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama’s campaign, took it a step further in a call with reporters today:
There are two ways to interpret the story, Cutter said. First, that Romney was “misrepresenting his position” at Bain to the SEC, “which is a felony.” Second, that he was ”misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people.
“f that’s the case,Cuter said, “if he was lying to the American people, that’s a real character and trust issue.”
The Romney campaign’s Saul suggests that the paper’s story “hinges on a (Jimmy) Carter-appointed lifelong Democrat’s assertions, cast as unbiased.”
Jonathan Salant contributed reporting on Bain in the latest update.