Attorney Gloria Allred has reportedly been planning a pre-Election Day surprise targeting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The key for the attention-seeking lawyer, it seems, is to uncover "Mitt Romney’s 1991 testimony in the divorce of Staples founder Tom Stemberg," the Boston Globe reports. But a document revealing the judge's ruling on the case in 1994 suggests the case has long been legally settled.
As the Globe notes, "Stemberg’s ex-wife, Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, appeared in court on Wednesday and supported the release of Romney’s testimony. Robert G. Jones, an attorney for Romney, said the candidate has no position on whether his testimony should be unsealed."
Gloria Allred's client is Sullivan-Stemberg. And, according to court documents and past press accounts, the muddy divorce proceedings have been going in some fashion for over 25 years.
Allred and her client are rumored to believe that Romney misstated the value of Staples in order to help his friend, Stemberg, receive a more favorable divorce ruling. But it's hardly news that Stemberg believes she settled for too little.
"The entire spectacle is about her client's divorce, which began almost twenty-five years ago. It has been litigated and re-litigated," one source with knowledge of the the divorce proceedings tells me. "She has attempted to get her settlement overturned, but failed. She appealed the decision, and failed. She tried to take her case to the State Supreme Court, and was rejected. She has accused her husband and others of defrauding her, to no avail. She has sued her attorneys for malpractice, and lost. She has declared bankruptcy, and tried to sell her story as a book and a movie, also to no avail."
The case goes back to at least February 1987, when the two were separated, court documents reveal. Lawyers presented the separation to a Massachusetts court later that year in September. And then in 1990 Maureen Sullivan Stemberg "filed a complaint in equity to rescind the separation agreement dated September 23, 1987," according to the court document.
"In 1990, she alleged in a lawsuit that Mr. Stemberg had failed in 1987 to reveal material facts about the value of Staples stock and the extent of his assets ‘present and future.’ Thus, she claimed, she had been wrongfully induced to part with thousands of shares at fire-sale prices. She also said that she had suffered from hormonal imbalances that had impeded her ability to concentrate when she agreed to the settlement," the Wall Street Journal reported in 1997.
But the court rejected Sullivan-Stemberg's request in 1994. Instead, Stemberg-Sullivan was found to have sold her stock expeditiously, before it matured to what it would be worth only a couple years later. "[T]he wife cannot blame the husband for her uncoerced decision to sell approximately one half of her shares prior to the initial public offering of the Staples stock," the judge ruled. She had 500,000 shares of Staples, from the first divorce settlement.
The reason for the divorce? "[T]he husband obtained a judgment nisi of divorce from the wife on the grounds of cruel and abusive treatment," according to the court document.
Here's the judge's ruling: