Nowhere to be found among all the hand wringing about Mitt Romney’s offshore bank accounts and blind trust is any mention of Obama’s blind trust from 2005.
On March 7, 2007, just prior to a presser on immigration legislation sponsored by Illinois Sen. Obama and Rep. Louis Gutierrez, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times wrote about “a page one story in the New York Times questioning the credibility of Obama’s blind trust.”
- Turns out Obama bought stock in little known companies whose investors included some of his major donors.
Right on cue, and to the rescue, the Obama rapid response team “shot out a rebuttal memo” and ABC’s “The Note” provided what Sweet called “a very good roundup on the political implications for Obama.”
- In their front page investigative must-read, Mike McIntire and Christopher Drew of the New York Times report: “Less than two months after ascending to the United States Senate, Barack Obama bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors.”
More McIntire/Drew: “Mr. Obama has made ethics a signature issue, and his quest for the presidency has benefited from the perception that he is unlike politicians who blend public and private interests. There is no evidence that any of his actions ended up benefiting either company during the roughly eight months that he owned the stocks.”
“Even so, the stock purchases raise questions about how he could unwittingly come to invest in two relatively obscure companies, whose backers happen to include generous contributors to his political committees.”
The Obama team response, as Sweet reported, produced these “facts”:
- “There is no evidence that any of [Obama’s] actions ended up benefiting either company during the roughly eight months that he owned the stocks… [which he sold at a net loss of $13,000.]“
In 2005, Barack Obama entered into a trust agreement — the terms of which did not permit his stockbroker to solicit advice from Obama or consult him on the trades that were being made – to manage his stock portfolio. As the New York Times reports today, Obama owned stock in two companies which he did nothing to help – an investment that lost him $13,000. At the end of a thorough examination of Senator Obama’s portfolio, it’s apparent that his dealings were completely above board and his decisions were proactively made in the interest of avoiding the potential for conflict. . . .
Obama Set Up a Trust That Would Independently Manage His Funds. In February of 2005, Obama began the process of creating a trust – the terms of which do not permit the broker to solicit advice from Obama or consult him on the trades that are being made – in an attempt to manage his financial portfolio without a conflict of interest. The intent was that this was a portfolio that would grow over time. [Conversation with UBS Representative, 2/26/07; Obama Trust Agreement, 5/31/2005]
UBS Broker Chose Stocks For Obama; Obama Was Not Consulted. A UBS broker chose the stocks for Obama to invest in, and as per the trust agreement, Obama was not consulted. On Obama’s behalf, the broker purchased $1,001 to $15,000 of Avi BioPharma on 2/22/05 and $50,001 to $100,000 of SkyTerra on 2/10/05. [Conversation with UBS Representative, 2/26/07; Obama Financial Disclosure Form 2006]
Obama Closed Trust Because He Realized It Was Not Truly Blind. In late 2005, after receiving an informational communication from his broker about his investments, Obama realized that his financial arrangements did not significantly protect him against even the perception of a conflict of interest. He contacted his lawyer and steps were taken to sell his stocks and close out the trust. Obama’s stock holdings were liquidated by November 1, 2005, and documents to close the trust were filed on December 15, 2005. [Conversation with UBS Representative, 2/26/07; Trust Distribution and Termination Document, 12/15/05]
Obama Made Less Than $2,500 On AVI BioPharma; Sold Stock As It Finally Began To Trend Upward. UBS purchased AVI BioPharma on Obama’s behalf when it was $2.57 a share in February of 2005, and sold it in October of 2005 at $3.30 a share, for a profit of less than $2,500. The stock price wavered throughout the summer, took a dip to $2.15 in August, and only started to recover at the end of September. [UBS Records Provided 2/26/2007; Obama Financial Disclosure Form 2006; Yahoo Finance Historical Stock Prices, Accessed 3/6/07]
Obama Lost $15,000 On SkyTerra. UBS purchased SkyTerra on Obama’s behalf when it was $36.35 a share in February of 2005, and sold it in November of 2005 at $30.49 a share, for a loss of approximately $15,000. [UBS Records Provided 2/26/2007; Obama Financial Disclosure Form 2006; Yahoo Finance Historical Stock Prices, Accessed 3/6/07] . . .
You can read the rest of the Obama team’s “facts” for yourself.
Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler reported on the contents of “16 pages of documents” that had just been released (March 7, 2007):
- Obama said he wanted to invest in stocks after signing a $1.9 million deal for his second book, “The Audacity of Hope.” He said after buying a home and putting money in the bank and mutual funds, he asked a friend and political donor, investor George Haywood, to recommend a broker so he could invest a portion more aggressively.
“I thought about going to (billionaire investor) Warren Buffett, and I decided it would be embarrassing that I only had $100,000 to invest,” Obama said.
Haywood, a major backer of both AVI and Skyterra, recommended a broker at UBS who also bought stock for Obama in those companies.
Obama said at some point in fall 2005 he got a stockholder letter from AVI or Skyterra, but he couldn’t remember which company. But on Dec. 15, 2005, he liquidated the “Freedom Trust,” as it was titled in the May 15 agreement establishing it, and put his money in mutual funds and money market accounts that wouldn’t raise such questions.
“It’s at that point that I became concerned that I might not be able to insulate myself from knowledge of my holdings, that this trust instrument might not be working the way I wanted it to,” Obama said.
UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne said the company would not make Obama’s broker available for interviews because they do not discuss client investments.
Obama said he didn’t invest in a qualified blind trust because it wouldn’t enable him to limit which companies he invested in, such as those in the tobacco industry and other areas that he did not want to support.
Obama attorney Robert F. Bauer added that the senator felt the blind trust left him in an “inadequate ethical position” because it would mean he couldn’t respond to media inquires, for example, if questions arose about his investments. But Obama also would have to report the stock holdings each year under Senate rules because they weren’t part of a qualified blind trust.
“At this point, I’m only invested in mutual funds or cash or money market accounts. That’s my instruction to my accountant,” Obama said. “We are not going to own individual stocks precisely because it raises questions like this.”
Senate ethics rules do not prohibit lawmakers from owning stocks in companies that do business with the federal government.
George W. Haywood, a “prominent, well-heeled” African American, is a former “managing director at Lehman Brothers and ran his own hedge fund before becoming a private investor.”
A Harvard graduate, Haywood was with Lehman Brothers 1982-1994 and a private investor since 1998.
How close are Haywood and Obama? This close — last September, Richard Pollock wrote at Pajamas Media:
- There’s a White House scandal involving favoritism towards a specific company high on President Obama’s political agenda — and it’s not Solyndra.
In this case, the company owner happens to be a big Democratic Party donor. And in the pursuit of giving preference to a specific company, the White House undercut a legendary four-star general and potentially undermined U.S. national security. Adding fuel to the explosive story: at one time President Obama was a personal investor, with $50,000 of his own money.
The company? It’s called LightSquared. And you’re likely to hear more about it in the future. The scandal involves the White House overruling the Pentagon, endangering the American GPS commercial marketplace, and playing favorites to a single company — all to please a well-positioned Democratic donor and advance an Obama pet project. . . .
Like solar energy, Obama has pressed for a bold agenda for universal broadband availability. In his 2010 State of the Union address, the president became a big cheerleader for the idea. The president demanded that broadband be given to 98% of the American people. In February 2010, Obama released a bill called the American Jobs Act which called for universal coverage. He told a group of college students: “This isn’t just about faster Internet or being able to find a friend on Facebook. It’s about connecting every corner of America to the digital age.”
The president wasn’t only intellectually involved. Investment manager George W. Haywood steered Obama toward putting some of his personal money into the wireless company. Obama bought into it with a $50,000 investment, according to his 2005 Senate financial disclosure form.
Haywood has remained close personal friends with the president. Haywood and his wife attended the first White House state diner and a Super Bowl party at the White House in 2009.
In February 20, 2010, Haywood and [FCC Chairman, and fellow Obama student at Columbia and Harvard, Julius] Genachowski together met at the White House. A White House spokesman said the two men watched the NBA All-Star Game with Obama in the White House residence quarters. “That was a poker game,” said Haywood. “It was poker, pizza, beer and the … game.”
Obama explained during the 2007 campaign how he invested in the wireless company. [See above.] . . .
The LightSquared case has been quietly simmering in the background for years within the telecom community. But now with possible tampering of a four-star general’s testimony, the episode should get a greater public airing.
If so, in addition to a sinking economy the other narrative that might emerge is that the Obama administration — which promised openness and integrity in governance — is an administration full of insider dealings, political favors, and deceit.
Bottom line? Don’t expect the Preezy of the United Steezy to share these minor details about his own “blind trust” adventures — and crony capitalism activities — any time soon.