The ongoing hullabaloo over the timing of Mitt Romney's exit from Bain has become a bit absurd. The Romney camp and Bain insist that Romney fully retired in February 1999 from the private equity firm he founded and owned—even though in the past he and Bain have described his departure as a part-time leave—and evidence has emerged (including Securities and Exchange documents I first reported) showing that Romney was involved to some extent in Bain as late as 2002, while he continued to maintain his ownership of the firm and its various entities. Romney has been working hard to avoid being held responsible for any post-February 1999 Bain deals that might have resulted in bankruptcies or outsourcing. But there is another reason for the Romney crew to worry about this controversy: Romney may have made a false statement on a federal financial disclosure form, and doing so is a felony punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.
Like all presidential candidates, Romney has to submit a financial disclosure statement to the Office of Government Ethics. He filed his most recent one last month, and the disclosure contains a very clearly stated footnote:
Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake [Olympics] Organizing Committee. 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.
There's no ambiguity there: not involved in Bain operations in any way. But that's not true.
As I reported, in November 1999, Romney signed a SEC filing that noted he was the "sole shareholder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President" of several Bain entities that had acquired 22 percent of medical-waste firm Stericycle. The form also stated that Romney shared "voting and dispositive power with respect to" 2,116,588 shares of common stock in Stericycle "in his capacity as sole shareholder" of the Bain entities that were part of this $75 million investment.