Much of the current controversy is caused by the tendency to treat Bain Capital like any other business. This way we get painted as anti-business. Instead of asking the question of when he was an active CEO the question should be asked when was he the chief investor and whether the Bain business model he created is good for the country. A 2007 New York Times profile corrects that reading and also provides some "goodies" along the way.
Citing his business experience, he urges voters to reject “lifetime politicians” who “have never run a corner store, let alone the largest enterprise in the world.”How the business model that Romney almost single-handedly created is corrosive not only to jobs but business too is explained below the fold.
Mr. Romney, though, never ran a corner store or a traditional business. Instead, he excelled as a deal maker, a buyer and seller of companies, a master at the art of persuasion that he demonstrated in the talks that led to the forming of Bain Capital.
“Mitt ran a private equity firm, not a cement company,” said Eric A. Kriss, a former Bain Capital partner. “He was not a businessman in the sense of running a company,” Mr. Kriss said, adding, “He was a great presenter, a great spokesman and a great salesman.”
So what's the Bain business model?
He made his money mainly through leveraged buyouts — essentially, mortgaging companies to take them over in the hope of reselling them at big profits in just a few years. It is a bare-knuckle form of investing that is in the spotlight because of the exploding profits of buyout giants like Bain, Blackstone and the Carlyle Group. In Washington, Congress is considering ending a legal quirk that lets fund managers escape much of the income tax on their earnings.This is not the first time that Romney has used the "leave of absence" excuse. He did so when running for the Senate. Again, this is only relevant if Bain is an "ordinary" business.
“The amounts of money are so vast that it is truly a matter of time before the taxation of private equity is front and center of the public agenda,” said James E. Post, a Boston University professor who teaches business-government relations. “Increasingly, this world of private equity looks like a world of robber barons, and Romney comes out of that world.”
Mr. Romney learned the perils of campaigning on his business career in his first run for office, when accusations that Bain Capital had fired union workers at an Indiana company it controlled derailed his effort to unseat Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1994. “Basically, he cut our throats,” a laid-off worker said in a commercial attacking Mr. Romney. (He has said he had nothing to do with the firings.)If Bain is an ordinary business this excuse and the current one might have some traction since a business manager is the one who makes hiring and firing decisions. But a "robber baron" extracts value out of a company for his own benefit and the layoffs occur as a natural consequence of the company being too financially weak to make payroll. A "decision" by a day-to-day manager is not necessary. Note that austerity is the same principle applied to the public sector. If you look at his public policy positions you see a bright line from the Bain business model.
So far all I have given are vague generalities but did the New York Times profile give specifics on how Romney as chief investor caused people to lose their jobs both before and after his leave of absence? Yes, BIG TIME.
One transaction, involving the medical diagnostics company Dade Behring, took place in 1999 as Mr. Romney was leaving the firm, and the other, involving KB Toys, occurred about two years later. Bain and its co-investors extracted special payments of over $100 million from each company, enabling Bain to make a healthy profit even before re-selling the businesses — a practice known as “getting back your bait.” Lenders say Bain is one of the firms that has taken the most in such payments, which companies usually make by taking on additional debt.What you see is the same effect happened irrespective of whether Romney was an active manager or not. Note it's the Bain business model of extracting its "pound of flesh" that caused people to lose their jobs. KB Toys was founded in 1922 and survived the Great Depression. Contrast that with the President and the auto bailout. Both companies fell on hard times. One gave a helping hand the other profited from other people's misery.
Both Dade Behring and KB Toys soon suffered dips in their business. Unable to meet the burden of their debts, each filed for bankruptcy and laid off thousands of workers. Bain Capital spokesmen have said the company did nothing improper.
But don't take my word for it take Mitt Romney's:
Mr. Romney, who remains an investor in Bain Capital, said he had not been involved in those decisions but acknowledged that such payments became part of the buyout business “very early on.”The fact that Romney is both an investor and a CEO can cause a conflict of interest. That's why CEOs are held to an ethical standard known as a fiduciary trust. As part of that they are to set the ethical tone of the culture of the company. Many CEOs are not involved with the day to day operations of the firm and leave that to the COO. The reason why Romney needed to sign the SEC forms was to affirm his fiduciary responsibility. There is no "I'm saving the Olympics for my political benefit" escape clause.
Romney goes on to describe one aspect of that trust and has a sad.
“It is one thing that if I had a chance to go back I would be more sensitive to,” Mr. Romney said. “It is always a balance. Great care has got to be taken not to take a dividend or a distribution from a company that puts that company at risk.” He added that taking a big payment from a company that later failed “would make me sick, sick at heart.”Failing to have a succession plan is not an excuse towards fulfilling your duties as chief executive. If his managers were taking excessive fees from KB Toys and he did nothing because he wanted to have a political career and be savior of the Olympics, he is still without excuse. The fiduciary duty is not only do nothing wrong but can be failing to do the right thing.
Warren Buffet also noted the negative effects of firms like Bain to really produce value for the companies:
Such astounding profits brought critics as well. Warren E. Buffett, the legendary investor, has derided private equity firms as “deal flippers” who do little to increase the real value of their targets, profiting from rising prices driven in part by their own deals and by charging their acquisitions “fees, fees, fees.”Finally a political prediction that came true:
Mr. Romney’s rivals in the Republican primary, courting business support, have shown little interest in the casualties of his Bain career. But Mr. Romney acknowledged that Democrats inevitably will. He said he felt confident he could persuade voters to see past such attacks, just as he did when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.It took awhile but you got our attention now. In the ten years since Romney pulled the wool over people's eye we have YouTube and social media and financial records on line. Good luck persuading us now.