What was Romney's role at Bain during outsourcing?

Romney's Bain involvement questioned
Both presidential campaigns turned up the heat over Mitt Romney's Bain Capital connections, accusing each other of spreading lies. CBS News' Bill Plante reports.
CBS News

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - It's getting nasty in the presidential campaign with each side accusing the other of lying about Mitt Romney's role at Bain Capital, and Romney demanding an apology. With jobs the number-one issue in the election, the Obama campaign says that Romney was running the private equity firm at a time when it was investing in companies that were sending American jobs overseas. Romney insists he'd already left Bain at the time in question. Here is a look at his role at the firm.

When Mitt Romney was CEO of Bain Capital in the 1990s, Bain invested in a series of companies -- including call centers and manufacturers -- that expanded overseas, sometimes at the expense of American workers.

After those investments were first reported in The Washington Post, the Obama campaign pounced. "Mitt Romney's companies were pioneers in outsourcing U.S. jobs to low-wage countries," according to an Obama ad.

When the Obama campaign then charged that Romney, as a Bain manager, personally shipped jobs overseas, the Romney campaign denied that saying it never happened. Outsourcing is now a crucial issue for Romney, who's running on a platform of American jobs.

"It's because I love jobs," Romney told a crowd in Cincinnati back in June, "I want more jobs for the American people."

Romney says he retired and left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, which means he never had control of the companies doing the outsourcing.

Romney: Obama owes me an apology

Watch CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford's interview with Mitt Romney, who responds to the criticisms about his role at Bain:

However, in the years Romney describes himself as on leave from Bain, here's how Bain was describing him in reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission: sole shareholder, sole director, chief executive officer, president, and even managing director -- of a firm he says he wasn't managing.

The Obama campaign suggested that Romney might have been lying to the SEC, but several experts told us not so.

"Putting that information on that form does not necessarily mean that you're an active manager of the company," said Tom Sporkin, a former SEC investigator and enforcement attorney. He acknowledged that that it was entirely possible Romney owned the company but didn't run the company.

"He could have been on a leave of absence," said Sporkin.

Romney would have made money if the companies doing that outsourcing sold at a profit. But the SEC documents don't prove that Romney ran Bain after 1999 or that he personally shipped jobs overseas.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.