In court documents that lawyers for Bain Capital sought to keep secret, the company and other leading private equity firms are depicted as unofficial partners in a bid-rigging conspiracy aimed at holding down the prices of businesses they were seeking to buy.
Documents filed in the lawsuit this week show that many of Bain’s takeovers last decade did exceedingly well for the company — a result, the lawsuit charges, of buying the businesses at deflated prices because of collusion with other equity firms.
Mr. Romney has frequently cited his success at Bain Capital in presenting himself as a proven businessman who can turn around the lagging economy.
In Bain’s biggest acquisition, the $32.1 billion purchase of the hospital giant HCA in 2006, competitors agreed privately to “stand down” and not bid on the company as part of an understanding with Bain to divvy up companies targeted for leveraged buyouts, according to internal e-mails
The corporate takeovers at issue in the lawsuit include the acquisition of prominent companies like Neiman Marcus, Toys “R” Us, Michaels Stores, Univision and the Loews and AMC movie chains, and they date from 2003 to 2007. The class-action shareholders’ lawsuit, which was first filed in 2007, long before the presidential campaign.
Michele Davis, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, said on Tuesday that the accusations regarding the takeovers are “not related” to Mr. Romney. “All of these things are long after he left Bain,” she said. Mr. Romney completed a retirement deal with Bain in 2001, and his name appeared on dozens of corporate documents until 2001. Moreover, he has continued to receive profits from the firm as a retired partner and has maintained holdings in some of its investment funds.