Mitt Romney Is The Real Super-Fraud:
Here’s The Proof, Chapter And Verse
By David Stockman
Romney’s a neocon echo chamber who has not the slightest grasp that the Washington War Party is ransacking the world and bankrupting the nation.
David Stockman’s Contra Corner
March 3, 2016
Posted at Quemado Institute
March 7, 2016
Now that’s a screaming case of the pot calling the kettle black if there ever was one. Mitt Romney has lashed out at The Donald for being a “phony and fraud”, but consider this. During his 16-years at Bain Capital, fully one-fourth or $600 million of the firms cumulative $2.5 billion of profits were scalped from companies which went bankrupt soon after Mitt and his partners got out of town with the loot.
No wonder the American voters did not believe him when he claimed to be the “job creator”!
Yes, the GOP establishment’s putative “jobs” candidate from 2012 was never really a businessman at all. He was an LBO strip-mining artist who rode the first Greenspan Bubble to riches between 1987 and 2000. Yet in the overwhelming share of the 77 investment deals he superintended during that period, he left behind financial cripples, zombies and Chapter Eleven bait.
I documented this in depth in a chapter of the Great Deformation called “Willard M. Romney And The Truman Show Of Bubble Finance”. The portion excerpted in Newsweek In October 2012 honed-in exactly on Romney’s phony claims and is reprinted below:
Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation. It has garnered fabulous winnings through leveraged speculation in financial markets that have been perverted and deformed by decades of money printing and Wall Street coddling by the Fed. So Bain’s billions of profits were not rewards for capitalist creation; they were mainly windfalls collected from gambling in markets that were rigged to rise…..
Except Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better……
The waxing and waning of the artificially swollen LBO business has been perfectly correlated with the bubbles and busts emanating from the Fed—so timing is the heart of the business. In that respect, Romney’s tenure says it all: it was almost exactly coterminous with the first great Greenspan bubble, which crested at the turn of the century and ended in the thundering stock-market crash of 2000-02. The credentials that Romney proffers as evidence of his business acumen, in fact, mainly show that he hung around the basket during the greatest bull market in recorded history.
So the jobs creator wasn’t all that, and as a politician he was far worse. Romney’s disastrous campaign in 2012 is exactly why the nation has had to endure four more years of the Obama White House’s feckless tampering with our already feeble economy; and why he bears the complete responsibility for the fact that since then Obama has further packed the Fed with even more extreme monetary cranks and Keynesian money printers.
Yet now Romney has the audacity to come out of the obscurity he so richly deserves in order to do it again. That is, to help insure that Hillary Clinton follows Obama into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Then again, maybe that is not so surprising. Romney is completely on board with the Imperial City’s conceit about its “indispensable” role in bringing security, stability, ballot boxes, Coca Cola and long pants to the backward peoples of the Middle East and other benighted lands.
When it comes to Hillary’s foreign policy agenda—– regime change in Libya, no fly zones in Syria, stumbling back into the Iraq quicksand, punching Putin in the nose, pivoting to China to rag about its sand bars in the Spratly Islands and much more—–Romney is completely in sync. He’s a neocon echo chamber who has not the slightest grasp that the Washington War Party is ransacking the world and bankrupting the nation.
Actually, Romney’s much worse. The Warfare State is burying the taxpayers of America in insuperable debts, but this fool campaigned four years ago for eliminating the sequester and enacting a dramatic increase in the already bloated Pentagon budget. At the same time, he refused to call for a sharp means test on social insurance entitlements for the affluent retirees and loudly declaimed he would not raise taxes.
But then there was no special reason to expect that Romney would excel in fiscal math. After all, when you make a fortune riding financial bubbles and scalping profits from failing and impaired companies you don’t need to be that sharp with the pencil.
And that gets us to the plain scandal of Romney’s record at Bain Capital. It’s laid out chapter and verse below. But the net of it was itemized in a detailed expose by the Wall Street Journal prior to the last election. During Romney’s 16-year tenure as head of the Fund, Bain invested $1.1 billion in 77 deals and generated the aforementioned profits of $2.5 billion.
But as the WSJ analysis documents, nearly 90% of these deals produced meager returns. And the ten deals that resulted in big time gains—-and nearly 75% of the profits—- have virtually nothing to do with business acumen. Actually, they stunk to high heaven.
As indicated, the overwhelming bulk of the deals—67 out of 77—were no great shakes. These 67 companies ended up leveraged to the hilt, but the returns to Bain and its investors were actually lower than what a passive S&P 500 indexer would have earned even without the risk of leverage or paying all the private-equity fees.
Investor profits amounted to a prosaic 0.7X the original investment on these deals. Based on its average five-year holding period, the annual return would have computed to about 12 percent—well below the 17 percent average return on the S&P 500 during this record bull market period.
By contrast, 10 of the deals appeared to be home runs on the surface. They generated profits of $1.8 billion on investments of only $250 million, yielding a bountiful return of 7X the original investment.
Yet it is this handful of windfalls that both make the Romney investment legend and also seal the indictment. To wit, they show that Bain Capital was a vehicle for leveraged speculation that was gifted immeasurably by the Greenspan bubble. It was a fortunate place where leverage got lucky, not a higher form of capitalist endeavor or training school for presidential aspirants.
The lucky part—or perhaps slimy would be a more accurate term—– was especially evident in four of the ten “winner deals”. Bain pulled profits of $600 million from them, but no sooner were the LBO boys from Boston out of Dodge City than these companies filed for bankruptcy.
For instance, Bain invested $10 million in a woebegone rural department store chain called Stage Stores Inc. that was being eaten for lunch by Wal-Mart. But Romney and his boys managed to pull out a $175 million profit—–18X their investment——just before the hammer came down and the company filed for Chapter Eleven, tossing several thousand employees onto the unemployment lines.
Likewise, Romney’s LBO outfit plunked down $5 million for American Pad and Paper (Ampad), which was a dying discard spun-out from the Mead Corporation on the eve of the on-line computer age and paperless office. In that case, Bain pulled out a $100 million profit or 20X its money before the company hit the Chapter 11 wall for want of customers for its eponymous “yellow pads”.
Next there was the Italian Job where Bain made $375 million or 15% of its profits. Bain and some partners bought Italy’s yellow pages monopoly from the Italian government to help gussy-up its budget results when it was seeking admission to the eurozone. This was essentially a “rent-a-balance-sheet” scam—–so when Italy was safely in the eurozone a few years later, and after Romney had attended a single meeting and Bain had done essentially nothing to improve the Yellow Page operations, the government bought back the shares for 22X what Romney and his Wall Street buddies had originally paid.
Since Bain had ponied up only $17 million for its piece of the LBO equity, its $375 million profit resulted in a pretty fulsome payday. As I described in the Newsweek article:
In November 1997 Bain Capital pulled off a veritable capitalist heist in the socialist redoubts of the Italian Yellow Pages. On a $17 million investment in the Italian phone book, it took out a profit of $375 million. This was not only a 22-bagger; for Mitt Romney, it was the ultimate in no-sweat riches. According to the company’s CEO, Romney’s sole involvement was a cameo appearance during a due-diligence session: “He came into the room, asked a couple of very sharp questions immediately, shook hands and left.” Twenty-eight months later, in February 2000, Romney’s former colleagues at Bain located him during his tour of duty in Salt Lake City, where they wired his share of the winnings: a reputed $50 million.
Bain and a syndicate of private-equity houses were originally brought in as a stalking horse to validate the government’s “privatization” machinations. At the time, the key Italian Treasury official was one Mario Draghi (now president of the European Central Bank). His assignment was to get the nation’s huge deficit down to a Maastricht Treaty–compliant 3 percent, and he elected to do so by means of a rent-a-balance-sheet ploy of the type then in favor. The short story is that Bain and the other investors paid 5X the company’s operating income for their shares, and were paid 100X operating income to leave when local circumstances obviated the need for the rental deal. That preposterous multiple expansion accounted for virtually all of Bain’s 22-bagger.
Yep, pure crony capitalism, and one of the world great monetary frauds, Mario Draghi, got in some practice rounds during the process.
Then there was the Inside Job where Bain made a $165 million profit in 50 days without even taking title to the property!
That’s right. In September 1996, Bain Capital and some partners bought Experian, the consumer-credit-reporting division of TRW Inc., for $1.1 billion. But Bain ponied up only $88 million in equity along with a similar amount from partners; all the rest of the funding came from junk bonds and bank loans.
Seven weeks later, they sold it to a British conglomerate for $1.7 billion, producing a $600 million profit for all the investors on their slim layer of equity capital and after not even enduring the inconvenience of unpacking their briefcases.
Quite obviously Bain generated zero value before it flipped the property. So the fact that it scalped a sudden and spectacular $165 million windfall has nothing to do with investment skill or even trading prowess. Instead, the Experian Corp.’s $600 million valuation gain in just 50 days was an inside job.
Yes, the M&A banker who sold Bain and its partners this premier property for an obvious deep discount was none other than Bear Stearns!
So Romney has a whole lot of nerve attacking The Donald’s business record and claiming, “He has neither the temperament nor the judgement to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”
Willard M. Romney is no expert on shiny things on a hill. The country would be far better served if he would get his diming light back under a bushel where it belongs.
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