On the heels of reports by Vanity Fair and the Associated Press detailing Mitt Romney’s offshore investments in Switzerland, the Caymans and Bermuda, the Obama campaign released a new video featuring on-the-street interviews with people who don’t have offshore investments.
“I wouldn’t have an overseas bank account and I don’t think our next president should have an overseas bank account either,” a man says in the clip.
The video also raises the question of whether Mr. Romney has “avoided U.S. taxes by investing millions in offshore tax havens.”
“We’ll never know, because he won’t release his tax returns,” text displayed in the video says.
After pressure from his rivals in the Republican primaries, Mr. Romney released two years of his tax returns in January. He did not release 12 years of returns, a tradition for presidential candidates that was started by his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney, before his 1968 presidential campaign. The returns Mr. Romney did release showed that, based on his adjusted gross income, his average tax rate for the past two years was about 14.65 percent, well below the 35 percent rate other earners in the top income tax bracket pay without creative accounting. In a conference call following the release of his returns, Brad Malt, a partner at the law firm Ropes & Gray who has served as the trustee for the Romney family’s three trusts since 2003, said he had closed Mr. Romney’s Swiss bank account in 2010 to avoid potential political problems for Mr. Romney.
“I regularly review Governor Romney’s investments, and just in connection with one of my periodic reviews, I decided that this account wasn’t serving any particular purpose,” Mr. Malt said. “It might or might not be consistent with Governor Romney’s political views, you know, again the taxes were all fully paid, et cetera, but it just wasn’t worth it and I closed the account.”
Mr. Malt also disputed the idea Mr. Romney’s investments in foreign entities constituted offshore accounts.
“I read a press account this morning that refers to these funds as accounts. That is simply wrong. These are not accounts in any sense of the word. These are investments in third party entities,” Mr. Malt said. “Suppose I buy 100 shares of Toyota stock. I do not have a Japanese account, I have 100 shares of Toyota stock in my U.S. brokerage account,” Mr. Malt said. “It is a foreign investment, it is not a foreign account.…The blind trust’s investment in the Cayman funds are taxed exactly the same as if Governor Romney owned his share of investments made by the funds directly and in the United States rather than through Cayman funds.”
However, according to the AP, Mr. Romney’s investments in a company in Bermuda “deprive the public of an accurate depiction of his wealth and a clear understanding of how his assets are handled and taxed, according to experts in private equity, tax and campaign finance law.”
The Obama campaign’s national press secretary, Ben LaBolt, echoed these questions in a statement released along with today’s video.
“Yesterday’s Associated Press story raises serious questions about whether Mitt Romney established a Bermuda corporation to avoid U.S. taxes and attempted to hide it from the public. According to the report, Romney transferred the mysterious corporation to a blind trust in his wife’s name one day before taking office as Governor in order to avoid disclosure. In fact, he left this entity off of seven different personal financial disclosure statements he was required to file under state and federal law since 2001,” Mr. LaBolt said. “Bermuda does not tax corporate income or capital gains. Until Romney releases additional years of tax returns, the American people will never know whether he created this shell corporation to intentionally avoid paying U.S. taxes. What is Mitt Romney trying to hide?”
Watch the Obama campaign’s video about Mr. Romney’s offshore assets below.