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Mark Axelrod

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Not Feign Capital, Bain Capital; or, Job Re-Creation for Dummies

Posted: 05/22/2012 11:09 am

I'm not a big fan of Mitt Romney's. I think part of the reason is that he's patently disingenuous and, quite frankly, a social misfit. I don't mean around "common people," but even around his "own kind" since it's difficult to feign woodenness. As a matter of fact, my experience with people who are celebrities or part of the super-rich is that many of them aren't that much different than the farmer in the field. It all comes down to being, well, genuine.

But I wanted to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, especially about Bain, since his relationship to Bain and to job creation has been such a focalizing issue of his "I can create jobs" presidential campaign. Of course, one has to suspend one's disbelief, one's economic disbelief, to think that any one person can improve the U.S. economic dilemma when the U.S. economic dilemma is part of the global economic dilemma and the global economic dilemma is part of the Wall Street dilemma ad nauseum. If there's an argument about dilemmas then one can take it up with pro and/or anti-Keynesian economists from Greenspan to Stiglitz. But I digress.

So, to really discover how important Bain Capital is in "creating jobs" one merely needs to travel to their website which opens with the statement:

Established in 1984, Bain Capital is one of the world's leading private investment firms managing approximately $60 billion in assets under management. Our affiliated advisors make private equity, public equity, leveraged debt asset, venture capital, and absolute return investments across multiple sectors, industries, and asset classes. Since our inception, our competitive advantage has been grounded in a people-intensive, value-added investment approach that has enabled the firm to deliver industry-leading returns for our investors.

Now you can read this summary any number of times, even in a foreign language, but the one word you won't discover is the word, "jobs." You'll find the word "return(s)" twice, but no jobs. The reason, of course, is because that's not their area of interest. They are, in fact, an investment firm.

In fact, their mission statement reads:

Our mission at Bain Capital is to produce superior investment returns [there's that word again] for our investors. To accomplish this, Bain Capital follows three fundamental principles that have driven the firm for more than 28 years: a high-performance culture, value-added approach to investing, and leveraging our institutional advantages. Our adherence to these principles has enabled Bain Capital to attract and retain some of the industry's most talented investment specialists, and to consistently generate industry-leading returns.

So, if you didn't get it the first time, twice, they repeated again, twice.

Once again, not a word about jobs, but there certainly is emphasis on "returns." As a matter of fact, you can read everything on their website and you won't find the word "jobs" at all. Perhaps, it's implied. And, of course, their Portfolio is brimming with companies such as: AMC Entertainment, Burlington Coat Factory, Clear Channel Communications, Dunkin' Brands, The Weather Channel, Toys "R" Us and Gymboree just to name a few. But there's nothing in their mission statement that would indicate they do anything other than invest in these companies so it's a bit puzzling where Romney may have created jobs for these or other companies during his tenure at Bain Capital.

As far back as last century, there's been dispute about Romney and Bain and jobs. According to a December 16, 2007 L.A. Times article by Bob Drogin:

From 1984 until 1999, Romney led Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity group that earned jaw-dropping profits through leveraged buyouts, debt hedge funds, offshore tax havens and other financial strategies. In some cases, Romney's team closed U.S. factories, causing hundreds of layoffs, or pocketed huge fees shortly before companies collapsed.

Once again, returns. So, the only mention of jobs here is in relation to layoffs. In a matter of speaking, one could say Romney created jobs by virtue of their loss. In a world of rhetoric, that might actually work. You know, the "creation of lost jobs."

Be that as it may, I'm still trying to see how anyone's past work experience as an investment capitalist would translate to being a progenitor of job creation. It would have been one thing had Romney, vis-à-vis Bain, admonished their portfolio companies to hire more, but that wasn't what Romney was doing and it wasn't what Bain was intent on doing. In the end, it's a bit of a conundrum since one can't really extol one's success at job creation if there has been no job creation. So, once again, we're left with wondering what's the truth here? In those situations it's really best to leave it to Twain who said: "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

 
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