Bain discrepancy "a big problem"

CREW's Melanie Sloan tells Salon that if Romney misled on when he left Bain, it's "potentially criminal"

Published July 13, 2012 1:37PM (EDT)

Mitt Romney is under fire after new reports suggest he stayed at Bain Capital longer than he claimed. The Boston Globe, citing SEC documents and financial filings with the state of Massachusetts reported yesterday that Romney stayed on at Bain years past his official departure date of February 1999. (The paper refused a request from the campaign to issue a correction yesterday afternoon.) And the Huffington Post obtained sworn testimony Romney gave to a June 2002 hearing determining whether he had sufficient residency status to run for governor in Massachusetts. In it, he says he "remained on the board” of a company Bain was heavily invested in, which would contradict earlier statements.

If Romney did indeed stay at Bain longer than he’s claimed, it’s potentially more than just a political problem, but a criminal one as well, a top ethics watchdog in Washington tells Salon. Romney filed two personal financial disclosure forms with the Office of Government Ethics in 2007 and 2001 relating to his presidential runs stating explicitly that he “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,” since 1999.

"I think if Mitt Romney was aware that he was still the head of Bain, and if he filled out a form that failed to include that information, that's potentially criminal. Intentionally providing inaccurate information can be a crime,” Melanie Sloan, the Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) told Salon.

Specially, it would violate the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 USC § 1001, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. “I can't really imagine why he would have done this. But it does seem like a big problem. And it does seem like -- how would he not know?” Sloan said. “Filing accurate financial disclosure forms is not optional. They're not suggestions.”

Sloan cautioned that no one is accusing Romney of doing anything illegal, and says there’s almost no chance of a legal action actually being brought against him. "He's not going to be prosecuted,” she said. "Usually they're not prosecuted for that as an only thing, it’s usually added on to a list of things they did."

Still, false statements are "not an unheard of prosecution." This was the charge brought against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who was accused of hiding gifts. Stevens "knowingly and intentionally sought to conceal and cover up his receipt of things of value by filing Financial Disclosure Forms that contained false statements and omissions,” the indictment read.

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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2012 Elections Bain Capital Mitt Romney