Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s testimony in the divorce case of Staples Inc. (SPLS:US) co- founder Tom Stemberg will be released, a judge said.
Probate Judge Jennifer Ulwick in Canton, Massachusetts, also said today in court that while Romney’s testimony will be disclosed, a confidentiality agreement between the ex-spouses on details of the divorce remains in effect.
Stemberg’s lawyer, Brian Leary, told the judge today in Norfolk Probate Court that his client has “no concerns about the testimony.” He called Romney’s 1991 testimony a “primer” on Staples’ early development. Leary asked the judge to keep the confidentiality requirement in force.
“This has been an endless repetitive pattern of trying to re-litigate divorce proceedings in a public forum,” Leary said.
Stemberg, 63, spoke at the Republican national convention, where Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was given his party’s nomination for president in the Nov. 6 election. Framingham, Massachusetts-based Staples, an office-supply retailer, grew with the help of an investment from Bain Capital LLC, the private-equity firm Romney co-founded.
“We are delighted that the court has upheld the confidentiality order in this case, which has nothing to do with Governor Romney,” George Regan, a spokesman for Stemberg, said in an e-mailed statement. “It is and always has been a private family matter that should not be subject to public speculation.”
Lisa Arrowood, a lawyer for Staples, said today the company doesn’t oppose the release of the testimony.
Gloria Allred, a women’s rights lawyer, appeared yesterday in probate court with Stemberg’s ex-wife, Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, and said she was backing a request by the Boston Globe to unseal the documents.
Jonathan Albano, an attorney for the Globe, described the information the newspaper sought as “expert testimony on a financial matter.”
Allred told reporters after the hearing that she will release the documents to the media today.
She told the judge that she wants her client to be able to talk about Romney’s testimony.
“She needs to be able to speak,” Allred told the court. “She apparently is the only person in the United States, maybe in the world, who cannot speak about Governor Romney.”
“It’s a complete lockdown,” the lawyer said, referring to the confidentiality order. “It’s the most comprehensive gag order I have ever seen in my 36 years of practicing law.”
Allred told reporters after the hearing that she felt betrayed by the Boston Globe for not pressing the judge to cancel the confidentiality order.
“The Boston Globe decided not to pursue the second part of their motion to modify the confidentiality order,” Allred said. “I felt that, in my opinion, was a complete double-cross.”
The judge said Sullivan Stemberg could file a new motion to modify the order.
Allred’s clients have included Sharon Bialek, the woman who accused Herman Cain, a Republican candidate for president, of sexual harassment, which led to his withdrawal from the race.
She also represented Jodie Fisher, who said former Hewlett- Packard Co. (HPQ:US) Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd made improper sexual advances toward her while she was under contract to handle company events. Hurd resigned from Hewlett-Packard in 2010 after it found he had violated company standards for conduct
Robert Jones, an attorney for Romney with Ropes & Gray LLP, told the judge yesterday, “The sooner we get out from this, the better.”
Stemberg is a co-founder and managing general partner of Highland Consumer Fund, a venture capital fund based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that focuses on retail and consumer service companies. It is affiliated with Highland Capital Partners LP.
To contact the reporters on this story: Janelle Lawrence in Boston at email@example.com; Don Jeffrey in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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