Despite his protestations, Mitt Romney is "legally responsible" for what Bain Capital did between 1999 and 2002, former SEC Commissioner Roberta Karmel said on Thursday's The Last Word.
"Generally, when a businessman is the chairman, CEO, and, in this case, sole stockholder, he's accountable for the business and affairs of that company," said Karmel, who is currently a professor at Brooklyn Law School. "And even if he's not making day-to-day decisions or managing the investments of a company like this—which was a venture capital company—he's still legally responsible, and should be accountable, for the business and affairs of that company."
Earlier that day, the Boston Globe reported on SEC filings showing that Mitt Romney had remained the president, CEO, and sole stockholder of Bain Capital for three years after he ostensibly left the company in 1999. Romney has repeatedly claimed that he had nothing to do with decisions that company made during his absence.
"Unfortunately, too many business execs have tried to exculpate themselves from that kind of accountability," said Karmel.
Stephanie Cutter, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign, suggested that Romney was either misleading voters now or had misled the SEC when he claimed to still be in charge of Bain. The latter, she noted, "is a felony." The Romney campaign demanded an apology for that remark from Obama 2012, but spokesperson Ben LaBolt made it clear that none would be forthcoming.
Karmel said if Romney misled the SEC, it would be a serious matter.
"If information in those documents is false or misleading, there are serious consequences," she said. "There can be civil cases brought by the SEC. And depending on the facts and circumstances, if there's a false filing with the SEC, there can even be a criminal prosecution. I'm not saying Mitt Romney should be criminally prosecuted, but that is a potential consequence of a false filing."