Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred has won her battle to have Mitt Romney’s sworn testimony in the bitter divorce of the ex-Staples CEO released to the public – in what is claimed could provide a damaging blow to his campaign.
The Boston Globe filed the application to unseal the records and lift a gagging order on all parties involved after receiving a tip-off that there was ‘juicy information about Romney’ in the documents.
There have been claims Romney’s suggestions that Staples’ stock was ‘overvalued’ meant Maureen Stemberg received a poor settlement in the divorce from the company’s former CEO Tom Stemberg.
But Romney’s lawyer said he would happily allow the transcripts to be released, leaving them open to interpretation. Allred said outside court it would take ‘a few hours at least’ to get the documents.
She demanded a gagging order against her client be lifted so she could speak about Romney’s conduct through her divorce proceedings, which dragged on between 1987 and 2002.
‘She is apparently the only person in the United States of America – perhaps the world – who cannot speak about Governor Romney,’ Allred said. ‘She needs to be able to speak.’
She argued that Maureen Stemberg is ‘denied her first amendment right’ by the court in the ‘most comprehensive gag order I have ever seen in my 36 years of law’.
Judge Jennifer Ulwick responded that Mrs Stemberg should file her own modification to the gagging order, rather than it be dealt with today, meaning she cannot yet speak out.
The Boston Globe agreed to drop its bid for the dismissal of the gagging order in exchange for the release of Romney’s testimony.
Romney’s testimony in 1991 reportedly came after Mrs Stemberg received a poor divorce payout, but the nature of what he said in court was not immediately clear on Thursday.
She filed the suit in 1990 as she sought to change the couple’s financial agreement after Staples went public in 1989 and began trading at 10 times the stock value she had received in the divorce a year earlier, the Boston Globe reported.
Arguments: Boston Globe attorney Jonathan Alban, left, and Brian Leary, counsel for Maureen’s ex-husband Tom Stemberg, said they wanted the testimonies to be released
TMZ claimed that Romney, whose hedge fund Bain Capital, was an investor in Staples before it became a household name, had said that the company was worth virtually nothing.
He allegedly said that the company’s stock was ‘overvalued’ and that the future did not look good. Later he and Stemberg allegedly cashed in their stock for a huge payout, according to TMZ.
Maureen Stemberg was awarded 500,000 shares and cashed in half of these before the company went public – missing out on a huge windfall as stocks soared from $2.25 to $19.
Bain Capital’s $2.5 million investment in Staples turned into a $13 million profit, and Romney’s decision to back in the company helped secure his reputation as a successful investor.
There is no proof so far that Romney or Stemberg tried to mislead Mrs Stemberg or the court, and their lawyers said they had no objections to the release of Romney’s testimony.
In court on Wednesday, Jon Albano, the attorney for the Boston Globe, confirmed that the case revolves around Romney’s 20-year-old financial testimony and his ‘expert investment advice’.
The court appearances come as a string of online messages have surfaced from a commenter claiming to be Maureen Stemberg, in which she unleashes a scathing attack on Romney and promises all ‘will very soon be revealed’ – in a possible nod to Allred’s campaign.
She also refers witheringly to his wife as ‘Queen Ann’ and lambasts both as out of touch.
In a series of unashamedly pro-Obama comments on the Huffington Post, a woman calling herself Maureen Stemberg writes: ‘He had a lot of bodies hidden in his “personal and business life”. Will very soon be revealed. When the door opens he and his team will be heading for the hills. Scary group.’