When Mitt Romney faced questions on the campaign trail four years ago about investments in firms engaged in embryonic stem cell research, the presidential candidate had a ready explanation — he was unaware because his vast financial portfolio was under the control of an independent trustee. Last week, Romney’s campaign pulled out the same explanation when ABC News sought details about the candidate’s holdings in the Cayman Islands, a notorious offshore tax haven.
But government ethics experts and election lawyers told ABC News that Romney’s trust might not be quite as blind as he has long maintained. That’s because Romney placed his quarter-billion dollar family fortune in the hands of his personal lawyer and longtime associate Bradford Malt.
Romney was himself once skeptical of the notion that a politician could use a blind trust to preempt inevitable questions about his investment choices and potential conflicts. When he ran against Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1994, Romney spoke critically of Kennedy’s claim that he had no control over his investments. “The blind trust is an age-old ruse,” Romney told the Boston Globe at the time.
But some experts have questioned whether someone with Malt’s close ties to Romney could oversee the candidate’s finances with true independence. In addition to serving as the trustee for Romney’s charitable foundation, Malt’s law firm has represented Romney’s interests in legal disputes, and Malt served as the primary outside counsel to Romney’s company, Bain Capital. A sign of those ties surfaced in August, when Romney filed his financial disclosure report and revealed that Malt had invested over $1 million of the candidate’s money in the Solamere Founders Fund. Solamere is managed by Tagg Romney, Mitt’s son.
Published: Dec 19, 2011