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 that Mitt Romney’s 1991 testimony that Staples’ stock were “overvalued” meant Maureen Stemberg received a poor settlement in the divorce from the company’s former CEO Tom Stemberg.
But Mitt Romney’s lawyer said he would happily allow the court transcripts to be released, leaving them to be left open to interpretation. The documents have yet to be seen by the press.
Gloria Allred, a staunch Barack Obama supporter who promised an “October surprise” for Mitt Romney, arrived at the court in Canton, Massachusetts on Thursday morning with Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, 61.
She demanded a gagging order against her client be lifted so she could speak about Mitt 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,” Gloria Allred said.
“She needs to be able to speak.”
Gloria Allred 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 Maureen 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 Mitt Romney’s testimony.
On Wednesday, sources close to the case claimed that Mitt Romney’s testimony in 1991 meant Maureen Stemberg received a poor divorce payout.
TMZ reported that Mitt Romney, whose hedge fund, Bain Capital, was an investor in Staples before it became a household name, testified in the case that the company was worth virtually nothing.
Mitt Romney said in the hearings that the company’s stock was “overvalued” and that the future did not look good. Later Mitt Romney and Tom Stemberg allegedly cashed in their stock for a huge payout, according to TMZ.
His bitter ex-wife claims this testimony affected how much she got from the settlement.
Maureen Stemberg was awarded 500,000 shares in the company and later went on to cash 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 Mitt Romney’s decision to back in the company helped secure his reputation as a successful investor.
There is no proof so far that Mitt Romney or Tom Stemberg tried to mislead Maureen 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 Mitt 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 Mitt Romney and promises all “will very soon be revealed” – in a possible nod to Gloria 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.”
She claims she was married to “his partner in crime, Mr. Staples” – a close friend and advocate of Mitt Romney – and brands the presidential hopeful “deplorable”.
The self-confessed Barack Obama supporter also describes a time the Romney attended their house for a Christmas party and “tried very hard to be real”.
“I truly do believe he has a fear and dislike for anyone who has less than 99,000,000 [dollars],” she wrote.
“He just can’t relate and obviously Queen Ann is the same.”
A Globe article in 2006 described Maureen Stemberg as living a comfortable lifestyle while demanding that her ex-husband pay her more money.
She “sits in her $5,200 a month, 14th-floor, concierge-at-the-door, elegantly furnished Back Bay apartment and tells you she’s broke”, it wrote.
“She can’t work. She can’t afford a car, her medications, her rent, even the family springer spaniel, J.J., who she just gave away.”
“I’m going to be out on the street,” she said.
“I’ve had a change of circumstances.”
Maureen Stemberg now works as an interior designer based in Charlestown, Massachusetts and has had a couple of reportedly on-off relationships since her divorce.
The online messages and interviews apparently reveal her enduring bitterness about her husband and their divorce, and Mitt Romney’s part in it.
She even featured in a 2008 Lifetime documentary, The Maureen Sullivan Stemberg Story: A Portrait in Courage, in which she gave an “in-depth account … of the interweaving relationships and strange bedfellow that business has made in her life… which include Mitt Romney”.
Polls show Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are neck-and-neck two weeks ahead of the election and Gloria Allred’s claims may be perceived as the latest round in a tit-for-tat battle between supporters of the two candidates.