July 14, 2012 1 Comment
One thing that’s been overlooked in the mystery surrounding Mitt Romney’s 1999-2002 tenure at Bain is that if we take his “My name was on the form, but I wasn’t really in charge” defense at face value, it essentially advocates that no head of a corporation can involuntarily be held responsible for their company’s actions.
For example, imagine that in 2001 Bain had committed a real crime. Let’s say there is no specific evidence about which individuals spearheaded the crime, but that there is incontrovertible evidence that illegal actions were intentionally taken by the company. It seems obvious that in this situation whoever was in charge on paper would be held responsible in the court of public opinion, if not legally. After all, it cannot be proven that anybody besides this person had the final say on what was happening.
But now Romney comes in and says that just because an SEC form makes a person legally in charge, it doesn’t prove they were responsible for their company’s actions. If the person on the form says they weren’t responsible, we should just believe them. Romney’s position is essentially that no CEO can forcibly be held responsible for the actions of their company unless they admit responsibility, or some kind of damning, never-meant-to-be public evidence proves their role. None of this is a big deal now because it appears Romney didn’t play much of a role in the perfectly acceptable activities in question. But what if an analogous situation arises where there is real wrongdoing? Romney seems to think if the documented CEO says he wasn’t involved, that should be the end of it.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised the Obama team hasn’t tried to draw a stronger parallel between Romney’s defense of “I was the CEO, but not in charge or responsible” and those of banking CEOs in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It seems like somebody should be able to splice together some pretty damning video.