After Mittens (and his lame surrogates) got hammered on the Sunday shows over his offshore accounts, he commented briefly about it on a radio show Monday, saying this:
I don’t manage them. I don’t even know where they are. That trustee follows all U.S. laws. All the taxes are paid, as appropriate. All of them have been reported to the government. There’s nothing hidden there. If, for instance, you own shares in Renault or Fiat, you still have to disclose that in the United States,” Romney said. “So, you know, I understand the president’s going to try to do anything he can to divert attention from the fact that his jobs record is weak and he has no plan to make things better.
In other words, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
The appropriate response to that? Bull. There is no way on earth he should get away with this dodge on a very real, very important question. And make no mistake, it's definitely a critical one, but perhaps not for the reasons everyone thinks.
It's possible, for example, that all taxes have been paid as appropriate. But that "as appropriate" phrasing is tricky, given that what is appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for someone seeking to lead the country. But for argument's sake, let's say tax evasion isn't an issue. That doesn't mean the offshore accounts aren't an issue.
Nature of Foreign Investments
One reason to have a foreign pass-through entity based in the Cayman Islands or Bermuda is to provide a doorway for foreign investors to walk through. This prospectus (PDF), for example, is from Deutsche Bank Alex Brown and appears to have been sent out to high-value investors in 1999, while Romney was still at Bain.
The purpose of the Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown Special Opportunities Fund LLC was to serve "as placement agent for private equity offerings, being actively involved in venture capital, merchant banking, private equity investments, financial advisory services, asset management and other activities."
The prospectus goes on to explain that the fund was "being formed to provide a limited number of sophisticated clients of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown and Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc the exclusive opportunity to invest in a diverse portfolio of funds managed by Bain Capital."
And here's the kicker: This particular fund is unregulated by the SEC, is not public, and was exempt from all regulatory activity.
The doorway to the investment had to be offshore to keep it out of the United States regulatory umbrella.
And then there is this offering circular (PDF) where Sankaty Investors, LLC operates as the investment manager for a JP Morgan/Goldman Sachs underwritten offering of Irish corporate debt -- the Nash Point CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligation).
Nash Point CLO is not a single loan, but a conglomeration of rolling debt in various companies. In other words, it's one of those carved-up-distribute-the-risk arrangements similar to the ones that collapsed in 2008 and nearly dumped our entire economy into the gutter.
Do you think perhaps it might be unseemly for a man vying to be President of the United States to be right in the center of the storm of shadow markets and hedging schemes contributing to the 2008 meltdown, directly or indirectly? With Europe's instability and the looming LIBOR scandal, what might we discover about the players at Bain, JP Morgan and Goldman, but most particularly, Mr. Romney himself, who structured and created schemes back in the 90s that blew up in the oughts?
Of course, I am speculating here, but it's not unreasonable speculation based on the thousands of published documents specifically with regard to entities Mr. Romney created and continues to hold until this day.
Remember that. He created these entities that he now shrugs off as something he knows nothing about which his so-called "blind Trustee" handles without his involvement. Again, bull.
Another reason we need more information about Romney's activities and investments: In order to understand what he plans for the country, it's worth looking at how he handled the companies he and his partners in these different investments bought and "restructured."
According to SEC filings (application/pdf - 114.38 KB), Romney was still firmly holding the reins at the time Bain and related entities took over Stage Stores. Mitt Romney was the sole owner of Sankaty High Yield Investors, Ltd, a Bermuda corporation, and sole general partner of Brookside Capital Investors, LP.
Those entities had ownership interests in Bain's takeover of Stage Stores, Inc. Vanity Fair told this story back in February, shortly after the release of Romney's 2010 tax return:
Romney had come to Drexel to obtain financing for the $300 million purchase of two Texas department-store chains, Bealls and Palais Royal, to form Specialty Retailers, Inc. On September 7, 1988, two months after Bain hired Drexel to issue junk bonds to finance the deal, the S.E.C. filed a complaint against Drexel and Milken for insider trading. Romney had to decide whether to close a deal with a company ensnared in a growing clash with regulators. The old Romney might well have backed off; the newly assertive, emboldened Mitt decided to press ahead.
Romney’s deal with Drexel turned out well for both him and Bain Capital, which put $10 million into the retailer and financed most of the rest of the $300 million deal with junk bonds. The newly constituted company, later known as Stage Stores, refocused in 1989 on its small-town, small-department-store roots. Seven years later, in October 1996, the company successfully sold shares to the public at $16 a share. By the following year, the stock had climbed to a high of nearly $53, and Bain Capital and a number of its officers and directors sold a large part of their holdings. Bain made a $175 million gain by 1997. It was one of the most profitable leveraged buyouts of the era.
Romney sold at just the right time. Shares plunged in value the next year amid declining sales at the stores. The department-store company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2000, struggling with $600 million in debt, and a reorganized company emerged the following year. So ended the story of a deal that Romney would not be likely to cite on the campaign trail: the highly leveraged purchase, financed with junk bonds from a firm that became infamous for its financial practices, of a department-store company that had subsequently gone into bankruptcy. But on the Bain balance sheet, and on Romney’s, it was a huge win.
The other endnote to this story: While it is true that Stage Stores survived in one form or another, residents of Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Ohio felt the pain of closure as some of the original locations of the various chains closed during the bankruptcy and were never reopened.
Nationally, 5,795 workers at Stage, which sells name-brand clothing in small to mid-sized cities, were laid off between 1999 and Feb. 2002, according to the Obama campaign.
It’s unknown how many workers were laid off in the Nevada stores in Winnemucca, Elko and Fallon.
In Winnemucca, 166 miles northeast of Reno, Rich Stone, owner of a dry cleaner next to the former Stage Store, remembers the retailer as a fine fit for the community.
Since it closed, residents of the small town of 8,900 and surrounding Humboldt County can’t buy non-Western-themed clothes there. They have to travel to Reno or shop online, Stone said.
“It’s a void,” said Stone, who is also a city councilman and a Republican. “We lose a lot of sales tax revenue.”
You hear a lot of rebuttals from the Romney campaign and surrogates about how Stage Stores today has 13,000 employees -- twice as many as before they went bankrupt -- and is succeeding. That may be so, but I'm willing to lay odds that the employees who lost their jobs had been with their various stores for awhile before they were mashed up into this new conglomerate, and I'm willing to go even further and guess they weren't rehired post-bankruptcy.
These "restructuring" efforts never touch on the truth of what corporate bankruptcies and raids do to real people living in real towns with real concerns. It may be just wonderful that Stage Stores can compete with Wal-Mart now, but I'll bet those 13,000 employees aren't making career-bending salaries, either.
In looking at Romney's plans for the country, one can't help but wonder if he would use the same tactics as President that he used in his Bain career. We're already loaded with debt, so what would Romney do? Well, he'd strip the assets out for profit -- that means no Medicare or Social Security. Those would be gone just like workers' pensions at AmPad and other companies taken over disappeared in bankruptcy.
He's already made it clear that teachers, firefighters and policemen are luxuries we just cannot afford to have.
Finally, he'd make sure the "investors" received a big cash bonanza in the form of some deep and generous tax cuts to those who made it all possible. Just for the record, that's not the majority of us. It's the 2 percent who have managed to capture nearly all of the gains of economic growth over the last ten years. We're just the "nails ladies" and students and "uneducated ones." We're the ones they take from in order to get the big profits.
As the country "emerged" from the Romney Restructuring, what would happen to those of us who were caught in the vortex? Too young to retire, too old to hire? Too young for Social Security and Medicare, not making enough to buy health insurance, assuming that the Affordable Care Act would fall under the same hatchet as Medicare and Social Security.
This is why voters can't overlook Romney's investment background and Bain career. They matter from a number of standpoints. He did business with the likes of Michael Milken in the junk bond era, he burdened companies with debt while stripping their assets, including pensions and personnel, and he engaged in the shadow banking markets where derivatives and unregulated debt transactions nearly tanked the world's economy.
As the victims of ALL of these things, we deserve the courtesy of full disclosure before considering him for high office. After all, he'd run background checks and credit reports on every company he planned to do business with. We deserve the same.
Don't let him get away with this. It's dodgy and dishonest.
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