High-profile attorney Gloria Allred was looking to drop a bomb with the release of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romeny's testimony in a business partner’s divorce case, but it appears for now it is more of a dud than a bombshell.
A Norfolk Probate and Family Court judge on Thursday lifted the seal on the testimony after all parties did not object to its release, but Allred, the Los Angeles-based attorney, was upset after the hearing because the judge did not lift a gag order.
(The Romney transcripts can be read in three PDF files: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)
"They don't mean that much unless my client can speak about them," said Allred of her client providing context on the volumes of Romney's testimony. "Out of context it is extremely meaningless to the public."
But one thing that is clear in the documents is that Romney did not like shopping at Staples in the early days – and neither did his friends.
In part of his testimony, Romney talked about some of the operational problems at the first stores opened in 1987, which were of concern to him and the Staples board.
"I was shopping there myself and found it a frustrating experience," he said according to the testimony transcript.
Romney said he was concerned about getting people checked out fast enough and that friends of his were telling him employees were "surly."
"I was concerned with the length of time it took customers to go through the check-out line. And I consistently urged Tom [Stemberg] and was very critical about the lack of progress we were making of getting customers through our check-out lines. And I heard numerous complaints from friends that I referred to Staples that they found Staples a hard place to shop, and they found our employees to be surly," Romney said.
Allred is representing Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, the ex-wife of Staples founder Tom Stemberg. Bain Capital, which Romney led, invested in Staples at its early stages.
Much of Romney’s testimony in the more than 400 pages of transcripts released by Allred Thursday is about the valuation and expectations of Staples as Bain was considering it for investment.
An independent filmmaker who interviewed Sullivan Stemberg for an uncompleted movie project told Reuters on Wednesday that Sullivan Stemberg felt Romney inaccurately described the value of the company, the news agency reported.
The value of Staples doubled to more than $500 million one year after Romney’s testimony.
The volumes of Romney's testimony from the early 1990s were released by Allred's office. She is apparently the only one to have copies of them after Sullivan Stemberg, who saved them, gave them to her. The court copies were apparently destroyed because the case was resolved and was decades old.
During Thursday’s hearing Romney's attorney didn't object to their release, nor did an attorney for Staples or Stemberg.
However, Stemberg's attorney did object to the gag order being lifted and because all parties were not in agreement the judge refused to reverse the order.
Allred said Sullivan Stemberg is on "a complete lockdown" and called the gag order the "most comprehensive gag order I have ever seen in my 36 years practicing law."
"She maybe is the only person in the US or world who cannot speak about Governor Romney," said Allred as she argued for the judge to life the order.
The Boston Globe filed a motion seeking the seal on Romney's testimony to be lifted and that the parties involved be allowed to talk about their interactions with Romney during the case.
However, the Globe attorney backed off of the second portion of the motion after being quizzed by the judge. That did not sit well with Allred who said it was a "double cross."
"To have this suddenly happen surprised me, shocked me," she said.
Allred said she planned to file a motion to lift the gag order so that Sullivan Stemberg could speak about the case.