Mitt Romney, Tax Returns and Hiring a CEO

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Your average HR lady is never responsible for hiring a CEO. Even at the biggest and most successful company in the world with the most awesome HR department, the CEO is hired by the board of directors (or owners). They have a process for sourcing, screening and interviewing candidates and it has little to do with Human Resources.

(You can google “how to hire a CEO” or “how CEOs are hired” to learn more about the process. Or talk to someone like China Gorman!)

I’ve seen CEOs hired at three companies. Over the past 17 years, I have been an active member of the hiring committee that hires senior-level executives who represent the company and can spend the company’s money.

In all cases, every final candidate had one thing in common.

Full disclosure.

I don’t mean that they shrugged their shoulders and released their tax returns for the past couple of years. I don’t mean that they listed the banks where they had a few accounts. I mean that every. single. financial. decision. was up for review. This includes inane stuff like buying a home, paying a nanny and filing taxes. If you bought ice cream at the state fair for your kids in 1974, it was revealed and reviewed by a select group of decision makers.

In the private sector, people in leadership roles are actually vetted like a VP candidate. And when dirt emerges, which it always does, some companies are okay with it. It depends. Maybe a hiring committee likes your offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands or maybe they like the fact that you avoided a tax obligation for 10+ years due to some creative accounting.

But you don’t have a choice about revealing that information. In fact, sometimes the company that wants to hire you knows more about you than you think it knows.

So when I hear that Mitt Romney will only release a limited look into his tax returns, I laugh and think — do I look stupid to you? Over a decade ago, I witnessed the downfall of a long-time internal candidate who wasn’t vetted properly when he was originally hired at our company in a group director role. He was being considered for a high-level VP role but fired almost immediately because it turns out that much of his previous success as an entrepreneur was a lie.

Do you know how we know this? We actually don’t. But he wouldn’t produce his tax records. And he was gone.

So I know how the private sector works. You don’t get to say no to full disclosure. And if the American people are the active hiring committee for the President, which we are, I think we have a right to understand the full picture of Mitt Romney’s wealth.

Those are the terms & conditions of employment as my President, Mittens. Take it or leave it.

Photo of Ann Romney via AP Photo/Jessica Hill

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