Explained: Mitt Romney's Retirement from Bain

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Over the weekend, Romney adviser Ed Gillepsie appeared on CNN’s State of the Union and NBC’s Meet the Press to declare some important news: Mitt Romney had “retired retroactively in 1999” from Bain Capital.

Well, then! That clears everything right up! Or: Not at all.

Let’s back up: Last Thursday, following up on reporting initially done by Talking Points Memo and Mother Jones, the Globe published a big story showing that Mitt Romney’s name appeared on some important SEC documents from Bain Capital between 1999 and 2002. Those documents showed that Romney was still the CEO and owner of the company — and paid a salary of $100,000 — despite the fact that Romney previously said he stepped down in 1999 to run the Olympics in Salt Lake City. As the Globe astutely pointed out: “The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date.”

After the initial report, the Obama campaign gleefully joined the pile-on, tearing into the former consultant for misrepresenting his role at the company. The Romney campaign, meanwhile ripped into the the Globe‘s reporting; Bain Capital released a statement saying that Romney had retired in 1999; it’s just that the paperwork had taken them three years. Then, Gillepsie’s statement this weekend only further muddied the waters, claiming that Romney decided in 2001 to “retroactively” retire in 1999.

That, though, contradicts some testimony Romney gave in 2002 — while trying to prove his residency so he could run for Massachusetts’ governor — that he remained at least somewhat involved at Bain:

Romney also testified that “there were a number of social trips and business trips that brought [him] back to Massachusetts, board meetings” while he was running the Olympics. He added that he remained on the boards of several companies, including the Lifelike Co., in which Bain Capital held a stake until 2001.

So, now we have two possible stories, both of which seem pretty damning for Romney:

Version 1

What Happened: Romney resigned from Bain in 1999 to run the Olympics and had no further involvement with the company.

Evidence in Support: He’s said, over and over in public statements, that he resigned from Bain in February of 1999.

Contradictions: Romney continued to draw a $100,000 salary, retained ownership over Bain, and told the Ballot Law Commission that he came back to Massachusetts for “business trips” and “board meetings.”

Result: Romney wouldn’t be responsible for anything that happened at Bain subsequently (ie: layoffs, outsourcing), but may have misled the Ballot Law Commission on his role at the company.

Version 2

What Happened: While at the Olympics, Romney was working part-time for Bain, perhaps advising on general direction for a company he still owned.

Evidence in Support: Romney continued to draw a $100,000 salary, retained ownership over Bain, and told the Ballot Law Commission that he came back to Massachusetts for “business trips” and “board meetings.”

Contradictions: Public statements.

Result: Romney would be at least partially responsible for anything that happened at Bain, including outsourcing and layoffs.

So, which one will it be? Round and round, we go.