There's something for everyone — anti-choicers, workers' rights advocates, Occupy Wall Street protestors, people who don't like liars — in this story about how Mitt Romney helped orchestrate a $75 million investment deal with a controversial medical-waste disposal firm in 1999. Naturally, he has tried very hard to pretend this didn't happen. But it did.
In January, the Huffington Post reported that Bain Capital (the private equity firm Romney founded) invested millions of dollars in Stericycle, a giant medical-waste disposal firm that anti-abortion groups have compared (with their usual tact) to the German firms that helped the Nazis out during the Holocaust. But Bain quickly helped stifle flip-flopper accusations by saying Romney left the company in February 1999, a whole eight months before the Stericycle deal went down. Conservatives rested easy, because when a private equity firm says something, it's always 100% true.
But Mother Jones' David Corn got his hands on documents filed by Bain with the Securities and Exchange Commission that prove Romney was an "active participant" in the deal. This revelation is troubling, even for those who don't think that Stericycle is in cahoots with the devil: unless Bain and Romney fudged SEC documents, the papers show that Romney and Bain have lied repeatedly about the fact that he was a key player in a deal that led to bucketloads of cash for the firm's partners.
That November, Bain announced that it had jointly purchased $75 million worth of shares in Stericycle, and listed all of the Bain-related entities were part of the deal: Bain Capital (BCI), Bain Capital Partners VI (BCP VI), Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors, and Brookside Capital Investors. Also of note? That Romney was the "sole shareholder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of BCI, BCP VI Inc., Brookside Inc. and Sankaty Ltd" and "may be deemed to share voting and dispositive power with respect to 2,116,588 shares of common stock in Stericycle in his capacity as sole shareholder" of the listed Bain entities. Romney signed the original copy of the filing. Another document from November 1999 also stated that Romney held "voting and dispositive power." Can't get much clearer than that, right?
Romney's campaign wouldn't comment for the story, and Bain's spokespeople insisted that Romney resigned in Feb 1999, months before the Stericycle deal. "If Romney had fully retired from the private equity firm he founded, why would he be the only Bain executive named as the person in control of this large amount of Stericycle stock?" Corn muses. A fair question! He also unearthed a bunch of statements from Romney and Bain about what exactly the word "resignation" means to them:
Moreover, in 1999, Bain and Romney both described his departure from Bain not as a resignation and far from absolute. On February 12, 1999, the Boston Herald reported, "Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions." And a Bain press release issued on July 19, 1999, noted that Romney was "currently on a part-time leave of absence"-and quoted Romney speaking for Bain Capital. In 2001 and 2002, Romney filed Massachusetts state disclosure forms noting he was the 100 percent owner of Bain Capital NY, Inc.-a Bain outfit that was incorporated in Delaware on April 13, 1999-two months after Romney's supposed retirement from the firm. A May 2001 filing with the SEC identified Romney as "a member of the Management Committee" of two Bain entities. And in 2007, the Washington Post reported that R. Bradford Malt, a Bain lawyer, said Romney took a "leave of absence" when he assumed the Olympics post and retained sole ownership of the firm for two more years.
Ah, so it's that kind of "resignation" that's not set in stone, where you can totally help land (and profit heavily from) a sweet $75 million investment deal while also pretending to have nothing to do with the entire situation. We all know how that goes.
Oh! There's also another unsavory piece of the puzzle: Stericycle is an undeniably shady company. Not because of its ties to abortion, but because of its safety record: the company has settled with attorneys general in multiple states and paid fine after fine for violating antitrust laws and failing to provide employees with "sufficient protective gear," thus knowingly exposing them to life-threatening diseases at its plants. But Bain didn't seem to care because $$$ > tuberculosis-ridden employees.
Will these findings bother Romney's constituency, or will they blow over, just like the initial story about Stericycle's ties to abortion clinics did in January? Depends on the quality of the excuses Bain and Romney come up with next. Maybe Mittens was kidnapped by pro-choice aliens for the entire latter half of 1999? Hey, it was Y2K! Anything could have happened.