The man who knows all of Mitt Romney's investment secrets might be out of that job in less than two weeks. Meet R. Bradford Malt, also known as the Republican nominee's investment manager for his blind trust.
For the last nine years, Malt has been the eyes behind Romney’s blind trust, which is estimated to be worth as much as $250 million. But should Romney win the election come Nov. 6, the candidate has said he will terminate his current blind trust and create a new, federal blind trust. The new trust will potentially be much stricter than his current one, with neither Romney nor the American public able to get a peek at what's inside. And it likely won't allow Malt to qualify as an independent overseer.
In June, Romney said that if elected president, he would move his money into a federal blind trust overseen by the Office of Government Ethics. The federal office qualifies the trust and the trustee as independent, and oversees trusts for the executive branch to ensure there are no conflicts of interest. By the OGE's standards, it's unlikely that Malt will qualify as an independent trustee because of his ties to Bain and long-standing relationship with Romney.
But for now, Romney's millions are in the hands of this Boston-based lawyer, who is also the chairman for corporate law firm Ropes & Gray. The firm has almost 1,000 attorneys and nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.
Malt has overseen the Romney fortune since 2003, when Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts. He's been responsible for investment decisions for the Republican presidential contender, including the opening and closing of a Swiss bank account and the unloading of problematic investments (like shares in CNOOC, China's state-owned oil company, which has ties to Iran) at key points along the campaign trail. Many of the investment maneuvers involved in managing the trust have also been handled through various holdings in the Cayman Islands, The New York Times reported.
Critics have said Romney's offshore investment practices bespeak dodgy high finance and the hiding of funds.
But Malt has defended the investment positions in the past, saying the Swiss bank account was, for example, just another way to diversify Romney’s money. “It’s just a bank account, nothing more, nothing less,” he said in a conference call last January when Romney’s 2010 tax returns were released, The Times reported.
When contacted by The Huffington Post on Wednesday for additional comment, Malt deferred to the Romney campaign.
"As we've said before, the trustee of the blind trust has said publicly that he will endeavor to make the investments in the blind trust conform to Gov. Romney's positions," said Romney spokeswoman Michelle Davis, "and whenever it comes to his attention that there is something inconsistent, he ends the investment.
Romney has repeatedly said that the trust is certified as blind in Massachusetts. However, the Washington Post reported that the trust "does not meet federal standards for independence" because Malt is employed by the same firm that represents Bain Capital. The two men have also known each other since 1990, according to The Boston Globe.
Very few lawmakers, in fact, even have blind trusts. According to a story published in Fortune this week, fewer than 20 members of Congress have gone through the process to set one up. The trusts are expensive to establish and run, and are not always that blind -- which can lead to political repercussions. Even Romney himself has called the investment vehicle an "age-old ruse."
"You can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do -- you give a blind trust rules," Romney said in 1994.
While Malt is clearly on Romney's side when it comes to the candidate's personal investment portfolio, his political leaning may not be so obvious. The reportedly self-described Rockefeller Republican donated $2,300 to the Obama campaign in 2008, according to The Daily Beast.
Also on HuffPost:
Stem Cell Research
In 2007, Romney <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/mitt-romney-divestment-pledge_n_1249118.html">held between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in Novo Nordisk</a>, a Danish pharmaceutical company that engages in limited use of stem cells for research. He sold the stock in 2010. His trust also made investments in Fresenius Medical Care, a German firm that has also done stem cell research. Romney <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/15/us/politics/15romney.html">has supported stem cell research in the past</a>, but today he opposes any use of human embryonic stem cells for research into diseases and other medical issues because the work could destroy viable human embryos.
Chinese State-Owned Oil Companies
In 2009 and 2010, the W. Mitt Romney blind trust invested $77,262 in shares of Cnooc Limited, the Chinese state-owned oil company, which he later sold for a profit of more than $8,100 on Aug. 10, 2011, according to the <a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/romneys-family-trust-invested-in-chinese-oil-company/"><em>New York Times</em></a>. He reportedly has had other investments in a Chinese oil company that was identified by the Congressional Research Service as a likely violator of the Iran Sanctions Act, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/mitt-romney-divestment-pledge_n_1249118.html">according to the Associated Press</a>.
The 'Morning-After Pill'
The Romneys have invested money in Teva Pharmaceutical, an Israeli company that engages in stem cell research and also manufactures "Plan B One-Step," the emergency contraceptive known as the "morning-after pill." This pill is opposed by anti-abortion groups. <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/02/08/420990/mitt-romney-is-financially-invested-in-the-birth-control-he-now-opposes/">According to ThinkProgress.com</a>, Romney has invested in other birth-control manufacturers via an index fund with Goldman Sachs.
Credit Suisse Group
The Romney trust held investments in Switzerland-based Credit Suisse Groupe until August 2011. In 2009, the bank was fined <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/business/16bank.html">$536 million for violating Iran trade sanctions</a> in 2009. Romney sold these investments the day before a Republican primary debate in Iowa in 2011, <a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/romneys-family-trust-invested-in-chinese-oil-company/" target="_hplink">according to</a> the <em>New York Times</em>. Though Romney is no longer invested in the Swiss bank, the bank is invested in him: Earlier this year a Credit Suisse banker appealed to subordinates to donate money to the Romney campaign, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/02/us-usa-campaign-romney-creditsuisse-idUSTRE8211BG20120302">according to a Reuters story</a>.
Other Chinese Companies
In addition to Chinese oil companies, between 2009 and 2010 the W. Mitt Romney blind trust bought and sold shares of Chinese companies including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Life Insurance and New Oriental Education, a company sued in 2003 by a U.S. firm for copyright infringement, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/mitt-romney-divestment-pledge_n_1249118.html">according to reports</a>.
Between mid-2009 and mid-2010, the Romney trusts made large investments in securities from BNP Paribas, a French bank with ties to Iran. The bank halted new business in Iran in 2007 but still has outstanding loans in the country. In all, Romney's family trusts bought more than 2.6 million shares, which were all sold in late 2010 for about $2.5 million, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/mitt-romney-divestment-pledge_n_1249118.html">according to the Associated Press.</a>
Romney's trust bought and sold shares in Intesa Sanpaolo, an Italian bank that has been under investigation by U.S. authorities for handling of Iranian funds. <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/12/20/iran-oil-italy-idINLDE6BC0FK20101220">According to Reuters</a>, the bank suspended financing Iranian oil trading deals in December 2010, becoming the last Italian bank to bow to pressure from the United States to cut ties with the country.
Romney's trust has made trades with Japanese company Komatsu, the world's second-largest construction equipment maker. The company has had business with Iran in the past, but <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/10/idUS190828+10-Dec-2010+BW20101210">stopped business with the country at the end of 2010</a>. Romney sold these investments the day before a Republican primary debate in Iowa in 2011, <a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/romneys-family-trust-invested-in-chinese-oil-company/" target="_hplink">according to</a> the <em>New York Times</em>.
According to Romney's tax returns, Mitt and Ann Romney <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/09/22/next-tax-argument-romneys-foreign-investments/">had many investments in offshore firms</a> such as ArcelorMittal, a steel company based in Luxembourg with operations around the world.
Romney's investments have included FLSmidth, a Danish machinery company that does business in South America, Africa and other countries around the world. Romney sold these investments the day before a Republican primary debate in Iowa in 2011, <a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/romneys-family-trust-invested-in-chinese-oil-company/" target="_hplink">according to</a> the <em>New York Times</em>.