Is Mitt Romney an example of corrupt capitalism?

An Answer to A Question about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

Hubber Man from Modesto has posted this question: Is Mitt Romney an example of corrupt capitalism? Limbaugh attacked Newt's lambaste of Mitt.

He then expanded it with by stating: 01-10-12: Rush Limbaugh attacked Gingrich's derogation of Mitt Romney's business model: buy a company, make money, then close it and sell everything for maximum profit. Limbaugh said Newt is "left" in this approach. Left, right, whatever: making money is okay. Doing so at the expense of others' livelihood is outright crooked. Jesus said, "There is no greater love than this: that a man should lay down his life for his friends." What is it when a man reduces the quality of life for thousands of others so that he can make tens of millions? Limbaugh is associated with M.R.'s firm, Bain capital.

In responding to Man from Modesto’s question I will focus on his two points dealing with Rush Limbaugh’s association with Bain Capital and the business model Governor Romney is accused of using.

Romney's "I like to Fire People" Remark in Context

Mitt Romney is No Longer In Charge of Or Employed By Bain Capital

Let’s start with the last sentence of Man From Modesto’s question where he states that Rush Limbaugh is associated with Mitt Romney’s firm, Bain Capital.

First of all, Mitt Romney was a former partner in and CEO of Bain Capital. Romney left Bain Capital in 1999.

Having left the firm it can’t be said that that Bain Capital is Mitt Romney’s firm. Romney did remain an investor in Bain Capital (and may still have money invested in the firm) but he is but one of many investors and doesn’t seem to play any role in the day to day operation of the firm.

Investor in the firm or not, he doesn’t seem to have much pull as far as raising campaign funds from Bain.

Further, according to an October 19, 2011 Washington Post article by Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam, as of September 2011 President Obama had raised $76,000 in contributions from just three employees of Bain Capital. In contrast, by the end of September 2011 Mitt Romney had only raised a total of $34,000 in much smaller amounts from 18 employees of Bain Capital’

The combined contributions of eighteen employees of Bain Capital to Mitt Romney’s campaign come to a little less than 55% of what President Obama managed to collect from just 3 employees of Bain Capital.

So much for Mitt Romney’s continuing influence with Bain Capital.

Rush Limbaugh and Bain Capital

As to Rush Limbaugh, in a January 10, 2012 post on his website, Rush states that his former syndication partner (for his radio program) was a company called Clear Channel Communications.

Clear Channel Communications was later purchased from its original owners by Bain Capital and another private equity firm which Rush didn’t identify,

Since Bain Capital apparently still owns its stake in the company, this technically makes Bain Capital, through their part ownership of Clear Channel Communications, Rush Limbaugh’s syndication partner. Although, according to Rush, neither he nor any of his employees have had any contact with Bain.

Mitt Romney’s Business Model

On the second point, Newt Gignrich’s description of...Mitt Romney's business model: buy a company, make money, then close it and sell everything for maximum profit, is both stupid and wrong.

Any type of buying and selling, whether the item being brought/sold is a one dollar candy bar or a billion dollar business, requires that there be both a buyer and a seller neither of which is being forced to enter into the transaction.

No person, group, business, etc. can buy anything in a free market unless there is a seller who is willing to sell.

The only time the owners of a company are willing to sell their company is when they feel that they are better off exchanging their ownership in the company for money.

Similarly, buyers of a company are only willing to part with their money when they feel that the company is more valuable to them than the money they are exchanging for it.

Private Equity Firms

Bain Capital is a private equity firm that invests money in other businesses, many of them failing businesses. Like any other profit oriented company is in business to make money. So when they buy or invest in another company they expect to make a profit from the deal.

However, the companies they invest in - mostly start up businesses that appear to have growth potential or older businesses in trouble and appear to have the possibility of being turned around - are risky and Bain could lose their investment if things don’t work as planned.

There are three primary ways a company or investor can make money by buying or investing in another company.

Making Money by Purchasing a Profitable Company and Keeping it in Business

The first way is to purchase a profitable company whose owners wish to cash out and move on.

The owners may have started the company years ago and now want to retire. They may be entrepreneurs who had a good idea and created a company with the intent of selling it at a profit once they got it off the ground. YouTube started this way and its founders sold it to Google a few years later for a very large profit.

In the case of smaller, long established companies, like a mom and pop restaurant the new owner may simply want to be his or her own boss so he or she buys it and, like the previous owners, makes a living by continuing to operate the business.

In other cases an larger company, like Google, may see the long term potential in the start-up, buy it, invest money in growing it and make it a integral part of its business as Google has done with YouTube. However, for the first few years owning YouTube, Google poured more money into the service than it earned from YouTube and many outside analysts questioned the wisdom of Google’s purchase.

Companies like Bain Capital will often see a small, profitable company that has potential to grow and will buy the company, invest money in expanding it and sell it, either to another company or take it public and sell stock in it.

In either of these instances, the existing workforce is kept and more are hired as the company grows.

Private Equity Firms Often Make Money by Purchasing Failing Companies

Instead of purchasing a profitable company, the buyer may see a company with very low profits or even losses but which they feel has the potential to be turned around. In many cases these companies are owned by stockholders and are operated by managers who own little or no stock.

After purchasing a majority of the stock from the stockholders, a private equity company, like Bain Capital, usually replaces the management and installs a new management team whose job is to make the company profitable.

In some cases simply changing the way the company is run as well as investing additional capital to upgrade the plant and equipment is all that is needed.

In other cases, it is also necessary to shut down unprofitable divisions and this is where layoffs occur.

A Few Examples of Why Companies Might Lose Money

Whole companies or parts of companies can find themselves losing money for any number of reasons.

Poor management is one reason but there are many other reasons as well.

for instance, with the advent of cell phones many cell phone owners no longer feel a need to subscribe to land line services in their homes. Without a land line service there is no need to purchase phones that use these services and it doesn’t make sense for manufacturers to employ and pay workers to continue producing telephone sets that increasing numbers of people are no longer buying.

There are also situations where the product being produced is selling well but the cost of producing the product is rising to the point where it is not profitable to continue producing it.

About eight years ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal describing how General Motors closed down an aging plant and laid off over 1,000 workers in a town where it was the major employer. The same week GM opened a brand new, state of the art plant in another town some 15 miles down the road.

The new plant produced the same cars and employed about as many people wages and benefits that were about the same or better than at the old plant.

However, few, if any, of the laid off workers were able to transfer to the new plant.

The old plant was a traditional assembly line with semi-skilled workers physically assembling cars while the new plant used more highly skilled workers (the job required a 2 year college degree with knowledge of computers and C programming skills among other things) sitting at computer consoles managing a fleet of robots that produced the cars.

The new technology enabled the workers at the new plant to produce three or four times as many cars per hour as the old plant, thereby lowering the unit cost of each car and restoring profitability to the model.

Asset Stripping

A final type of poorly performing companies that are targets for acquisition are ones that are generally beyond help and are in a slow decline struggling year to year to survive.

In the case of some stock companies in this category savvey investors research and discover that the total current market value of the assets of these companies exceeds the total value of their stock. In other words, the cost of purchasing all of the company’s stock is less than the value of the assets the buyer would have access to once they owned the company.

This activity is commonly known as asset stripping and in the 1987 movie, Wall Street, the main character, Gordon Gecko, was portrayed as an asset stripper.

However, in addition to selling the assets of his target company, Gecko went beyond by attempting to steal from the pension fund as well, leaving audiences to view asset stripping as theft. This theme made for a good move, but many people have come to view this piece of fictional entertainment as reality.

Stockholders are People Too

It is true that employees are laid off when such companies are shut down and sold off in pieces. However, the fact that the market puts a higher value on the assets than on the company as a whole is an indication that the company is not putting these assets to their best use.

Generally the owner of piece of property is free to use the property as he or she wishes, regardless of how the market or the general public feel the property should be used.

However, the owners of the company in this case are not the management and employees, but the stockholders.

By not putting the assets to their best or most profitable use (which might involve changes that would result in managers and/or employees having to work outside their comfort zones or even involve letting some of them go) the managers of the company are not fulfilling their obligations to the stockholders who are the real owners.

And stockholders are not necessarily Wall Street fat cats, but average working Americans who have some stocks in their retirement savings or college savings for their children. These people deserve consideration also.

Bankruptcy and Government Bailouts Also Result in Job Losses

The final thing to consider when talking about closing down inefficient divisions of a company or breaking up a failing company and selling off the pieces is that what private equity firms like Bain Capital do is not much different than what bankruptcy courts do when failing companies file for bankruptcy or what the U.S. government has done when bailing out failing companies.

In a bankruptcy the bankrupt firm is usually either reorganized with money losing parts closed and sold or the firm is shut down completely and the parts sold to pay creditors.

62,600 Jobs Lost When U.S. Government Bailed Out Chrysler Corp in 1980

When Chrysler Corporation was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1970s the company’s leaders and supporters in Congress and the liberal media argued that a government bailout was needed to save the jobs of Chrysler workers.

President Carter and his Democratic controlled Congress proceeded in 1979 to bail the company out with taxpayer dollars. The bailout was a success in terms of keeping the current management in power at Chrysler, protecting the UAW union’s contracts (which could have been voided in a bankruptcy) in place and protecting the investments of lenders, bondholders and stockholders.

Even though the bailout was passed by Congress on the premise that it would save the jobs of Chrysler workers, many of Chrysler’s money losing plants and divisions were closed and the workers laid off (fired).

In all about one third or more of Chrysler’s workforce, some 62,600 white collar and hourly employees of the company, lost their jobs as a result of the company’s restructuring that was made possible with the bailout initiated by President Carter and his Democrat controlled Congress.

Private Equity Companies Don’t Cause Businesses to Fail

Private equity companies, like Bain Capital, don’t create the situations that cause companies to fail. While there are some opportunities to make a profit with asset stripping, these only occur when a company is sitting on a large number of valuable assets and not using them in a way that generates profits for their stockholders.

More often than not, the types of companies that private equity firms buy are ones that can be re-organized or revitalized with new investment and sold by the private equity firm at a profit. It is by adding value to a company that private equity firms are able to make money and in doing this they save and even create jobs.

Interestingly, while private equity firms are being criticized for making money by helping to save companies, the real culprits are the new companies that are transforming our economy through innovation and new products.

Innovative New Companies are the Real Culprits in Job Destruction

In today’s world these companies are high tech firms which, while being major job creators in the economy are also creating the environment that is destroying many old line businesses in the process.

In today’s world it is companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. who are creating jobs and producing products that make our lives better while, at the same time indirectly rendering many old line companies and their products redundant.

In the past companies like Ford and Chrysler put makers of horse drawn wagons, buggy whips, local stable owners, etc. out of business with their new automobiles.

Earlier it was factory owners employing James Watt’s new steam engine to mass produce cloth who put little home based weavers out of business.

Going back even further, it was the ancient people who discovered how to produce objects using metal (Bronze Age) who put the makers of stone tools out of business.

Today numerous companies in music distribution, publishing and journalism to name a few are facing oblivion unless they can quickly adapt to the new business environment.

Ultimately it is You and Me Who are Causing Jobs to Be Lost

The ugly truth is that ultimately it is not private equity firms or the new firms that are changing our world with their new products and processes.

It is you and me who are causing jobs to be destroyed. Every time we replace our home telephones with a cell phone, we purchase and download music or books from the Internet, stop buying newspapers and go online for news, etc. we are putting jobs in the industries producing what we are no longer buying at risk.

The flip side of this is that not only do these new companies also employ people but, without change and the disruptions caused by change we would still be living in caves and hunting our dinner using spears tipped with sharpened stones.

Bad as this scenario is, we could always comfort ourselves with the fact that no jobs in the stone spear tip producing sector of the economy would have been destroyed in the last 10,000 years or more.

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Comments 23 comments

iamageniuster profile image

iamageniuster 4 years ago

Good post. I think he is.


Clarke Stevens profile image

Clarke Stevens 4 years ago from North Kingstown, RI, United States

The US has some major economic problems, and we should be selecting the man/ woman who can best handle bringing resources together to solve them. Our willingness to narrow our choices because of past tax rates, debating prowess or religious affiliation will only hurt our chances to elect the best candidate for the job. Plus, it would be un-American.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

seo guru - thanks for another great comment.

If the President really wanted to bring the nation together, as he promised in his 2008 campaign, he would work to replace the progressive income tax with something that is both fairer and more efficient. As it is, the main appeal of the progressive income tax for the left is the ability to use the tax to arouse passions of envy and hate in order to divide people and win elections.

Thanks again for your insightful comments.


FLOYDINFLORIDA 4 years ago

I Don't know the very Idea of buying just enough stock in a company say 51% So that you can take over close down and sell off the companies orders & assets is just disgusting!

Sure you will make big bucks up front! Never mind plants, Factories and mills will shut down! Hundreds of people will loose their Jobs! The Cities and Town will go broke!

Free trade agreement of the past decade have made this ever more frequent!

Dress it up any way you want but a heartless corporate raider is still pond scum!


Zubair Ahmed profile image

Zubair Ahmed 4 years ago

A very nice hub, thank you for sharing. I think people in the US should only vote in middle class people into power and kick all those mega rich politicians who only think of themselves rather than the average American.

Romney - wouldn't know what it is like to live on an average Americans salary with ever increasing prices and social difficulties that we all face.


ib radmasters profile image

ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

Chuck

I am sorry not to join in with the accolades on this hub, but it doesn't make sense.

Adam Smith said that a business that is a Monopoly is the strongest and most profitable type of business.

Mergers and acquisitions have been going on for several decades. While the monopoly is the best for the owners of the business, it is not the best for the consumer, as it lacks competition to adjust prices and produce better products.

This is not the only factor of why jobs and companies are lost, but it is a factor.

The big problem is the government on one end and the large corporations on the other end. Businesses and well as people make many business decisions on the tax benefits or tax disadvantages. These are not necessarily good business decisions, but they are necessary because of taxation by the government.

I would have to write a very large hub to give all the reasons why the economy is in the tank, and that is the real issue here.

But government interference, taxation, and large corporations making the buck is the core of the problem. The government workforce is obese, and very expensive and this results in over taxation. Most large corporations today are global so they can hide a lot from this country, and maximize their profit, and lower their taxes.

my opinion....


seo guru profile image

seo guru 4 years ago from Chicago Area

So what you will see is every one in the media focus on his tax rate. Not the fact he paid 3 million in taxes and gave 3 million to charity last year. And of course his income is from Investments or capital gains now, which all are taxed at 15%. Even the so called 99% who own stock and made a profit off them get taxed at this rate and I would bet they take advantage of it. Also what you won't see come out is that most people who earn under $50,000 will pay less percentage as they take the deductions, (loopholes) afforded them to get the actual taxable income amount lower. But because he makes a lot of money or has he will be vilified. Now that said, I wonder if anyone will go back and see how much in taxes he paid on income in the past when he was salaried at Bein or other places, or his salary as Governor, bet it was at the highest possible rate. do you think any reporter will go look at that and report it.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

GmaGoldie - thanks for your comments.

As to Romney's release of his income taxes, I guarantee there will be a staggering number of tax forms and supporting documents which means that they will only be read by a few reporters from the main stream media whose only objective will be to find and publish bits of information out of context that will make Romney look bad. Hopefully, there will be some experts on the right who will have the time to read them and correct the misinformation that the main stream media will transmit.

Frankly, it would be more interesting to read President Obama's college financial aid application forms, but I won't hold my breath waiting for that.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

I concur completely. The power of the American wallet is stronger than our votes. We do vote worldwide with our wallets and we must take ownership.

The car companies are returning with quality products because they have seen the trauma imposed.

The ongoing problem will be competitive wages and benefits.

Calculating these benefits must change. The United States has created a socialized system with the benefits that have been offered. Recognizing the economic impact is long overdue.

What did you think about the tax release?


Chuck profile image

Chuck 4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

SEO Guru - the problem is that the mainstream press is generally very selective in their reporting and tend to overlook facts that run counter to their views. It took me two hours or more to track the information down for my comments about Ampad.

Thanks for your comments.


seo guru profile image

seo guru 4 years ago from Chicago Area

Chuck isn't interesting when you look under the hood how you really find out why the engine is no longer running. What you cite regarding AMPAD, makes perfect sense, tells a very reasonable explanation, talks to how Unions play a role in their members own demise at times and how investment capital works. If only folks would take the time to research things and try to put themselves in the other sides shoes and forced with the same decisions under the same circumstances, perhaps more real work would get done across the board.

Again fabulous read, thank you


Chuck profile image

Chuck 4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

SEO guru - thanks for your great comments. I apologize for my delay in replying to the comments here - it took a while to research Ampad.


seo guru profile image

seo guru 4 years ago from Chicago Area

Sorry I caught that after I posted the comment. great hub Chuck, all better now


Chuck profile image

Chuck 4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Man from Modesto - thanks for the compliment, I'm glad your enjoyed my answer to your question.

I did some research on Bain Capital and Ampad Corp.

Ampad, a stationary company, was created in the late 19th century and was later purchased by Mead Paper Co. Sometime in the early 1990s Mead either spun it off as a separate company and Bain Capital and another investor or investors either purchased the stock of Ampad and took it private or purchased it directly from Mead.

When you talk about Bain it is actually two separate companies - Bain and Company which is a consulting and management firm and Bain Capital which is a private equity company. Bain and Company created Bain Capital and still own what is apparently a large share in it. It also appears that Mitt Romney (he may or may not still own his shares in Bain Capital) and other principals also own or owned equity in Bain Capital. Romney and the other principals were employees of Bain and Company who either transferred or were moved to Bain Capital when it was created - Romney was appointed by Bain and Company as the first CEO of Bain Capital.

As the owner of Ampad, Bain Capital had the right to hire whoever they wanted to provide services to Ampad. Bain Capital had a seat on Ampad's board of directors and, with their large ownership stake could make decisions on how Ampad operated. However, day to day operations were handled by managers. Bain and Company appears to have been hired to do consulting and some management of the company and were compensated for this.

As far as "looting" Ampad, this does not appear to have occurred as Bain Capital was able to sell Ampad later at a profit - they couldn't have done this if it were an empty shell or overloaded with debt and investors would not have paid top dollar for Ampad.

As to the closing of factories and laying off employees. Ampad, while under Bain Capital's ownership, purchased a company called SCM (which it still owns). One of SCM's factories was located in Indiana. The factory was apparently old, with outdated equipment and overly restrictive union. The union went on strike for higher wages which the SCM didn't agree to. When the union refused to settle, SCM fired the striking employees (which it had a right to do as their contract had expired). SCM then offered to hire the employees back at a lower rate of pay and they apparently refused. SCM then closed the factory and sold it.

Sometime after being sold by Bain Capital, Ampad found itself losing money as its traditional market was in upheaval due to new competition from foreign companies and new low cost office supply chains, like Staples (which Bain Capital had earlier helped to transform from a one store operation to a major national chain).

Ampad filed bankruptcy and underwent court supervised reorganization and re-emerged from bankruptcy.

Ampad is current a healthy company with outlets around the nation. It appears to currently be a wholly owned subsidiary of American Pad and Paper, LLC ( http://www.insideview.com/directory/american-pad-p... )


Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

SEO Guru, the hub is the work of "Chuck". I merely posted a question, to which he responded.

Peace, MFM


Angela Kane profile image

Angela Kane 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

Very good hub and I think a lot of politicians are examples of corrupt capitalism not just Romney. He is just the poster child.


Pintoman profile image

Pintoman 4 years ago

Good article. The anti-Bain video was very simplistic; whiny out of work workers whining they don't have a job and it's all Romney's fault. No details in why anything happened. One worker, one union worker, complained that he had to work harder. Poor thing. Proof that these people just think corporations exist to provide them with money,and they want more and more without thought to pricing themselves out of business. On the other hand, and knowing Romney is a liar, and the way Bain operates (protects itself against it's own bad investments,leaving others holding the bag) Romney probably was to blame for some bad business. There are plenty of other reasons to go after Romney, this was probably the least important, and sent a bad message to the public about how capital works.


Clarke Stevens profile image

Clarke Stevens 4 years ago from North Kingstown, RI, United States

Chuck, once again you have a super Hub with good research and no sound bytes.

I'd be curious to know how much Romney was a good manager vs. a good investor. (He definitely could pick winners...)


seo guru profile image

seo guru 4 years ago from Chicago Area

@ mel22 your Kodak comment, could it be that Kodak did not shift with the times like Olympus and Cannon did, could it be that no one uses film anymore, could it be that the digital vertical created more jobs than will be lost at Kodak even if stripped of assets. All companies are required to provide products or services the market wants and buys, If they don't they fall by the way side. What do you think a bankruptcy judge will do with Kodak's assets, they will sell them off to pay off creditors. I just don't understand why anyone would look any further than Kodak management or to some degree employees as to blame for the demise of this company. They did not adapt and technology passed them buy. This is not an uncommon event, look at our steel industry, our auto industry. I hear people all the time saying buy American to protect American jobs, but American companies have a responsibility to build and sell quality and compete on price points or suffer the fate of market demand for a better product at a lower price.


mel22 profile image

mel22 4 years ago from ,

no comments... not enough business minded people to read at HP i guess. Well, looks like Kodak is being rendered obsolete by digital cameras but hey in the end maybe private equity can asset strip the company and start focusing in a different direction...or not... looks like bankruptcy is imminent.


seo guru profile image

seo guru 4 years ago from Chicago Area

Finally some one with business acumen posts something, I was beginning to think the only people on hub pages were those that hated America.

Imagine if the automobile was not invented and mass produced, wonder what we would have looked like. Yes the industry of horseless carriages died, and many other sprang up to take it's place to support the automobile. It is the way of the world

And as far as private equity firms some interesting facts that never seemed to be talked about

Usually these firms are brought in to either finance growth or save a troubled company. If everything was Rosie they would not be needed.

In doing so the rate of success for these companies is one of every ten they make money on, or put the other way, they lose money on nine out of ten investments.

They bet on the current management, business plan or market demand and if it does not come through they have to act to recoup as much of the investment as possible. if yo put three hundred million dollars into a company and it failed would you not sell the assets, take over the management or do what ever the heck you could to get as much of your money back as possible.

Man from Modesto big thumbs up for this blog


Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

Also, the Romney video you inserted is very good. Everyone should watch it.


Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

You put some real research into the article. It is a good article. Though listing well-documented facts may seem like a very good refutation, it is not always sufficient to make a case. I also read an article on Bain Capital and Ampad. Bain bought the company, charged millions of dollars per year for "management" fees, borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars... and then declared bankruptcy. The net transfer of wealth was from banks to Bain.

There is no real "business", in the manner of providing a product or increasing efficiency (that I could see in the one article).

So, the case against the practice Romney's firm used (in 1992, when Romney was the top chief) are not beneficial to a nation. If every business man did what he did, there would be no real creation of wealth, only a shifting of wealth to the most um, 'effective' managers.

Here is the story I read: http://www.massresistance.org/romney/ampad_062607/...

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