Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
At 11:45 p.m. on Jan. 18, Terry Robbins and Richard Epstein raced through the cold drizzle to 1201 New York Ave., N.W., in Washington, D.C., for a hastily convened meeting at the Office of Government Ethics. It was three days before the presidential inauguration of George W. Bush, and the celebration had already begun on the National Mall. But for Robbins, a financial adviser and accountant to a few very wealthy clients, and Epstein, an ethics official at the Department of Defense, it had been a day of frantic work. They had received word the night before that the Senate wanted to confirm Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense on Jan. 20, the day of Bush’s inaugural. But the Senate Armed Services Committee, which had not yet voted on Rumsfeld, had to get copies of Rumsfeld’s financial disclosure report. And the OGE had to review and certify that report before the committee could accept it. Rumsfeld is one of Robbins’ clients. According to sources involved in the process, he, Epstein, and several other lawyers had been laboring for weeks to prepare Rumsfeld’s enormously complex financial disclosure documents for the OGE to sign off on. And they were now down to the wire. Rumsfeld’s wide-ranging investment portfolio proved extremely challenging to spell out, several of his advisers say. The final version of the report runs to 95 pages, including roughly five pages of footnotes and a 14-page list of investments in various limited partnerships. The total value of those sometimes obscure, “illiquid” investments, according to the estimates in the report, was between about $20 million and $100 million. All told, the report values Rumsfeld’s assets at between about $50 million and $210 million. Rumsfeld’s experience shows the lengths to which some high-level government officials must go to comply with ethics disclosure rules. For the Defense secretary, it started with negotiations in January and continues today with the divestment of many of his assets. TEAM RUMSFELD Robbins, who lives in Chicago, flew to Washington shortly after Bush picked Rumsfeld for the Defense job in late December. A former Arthur Anderson accountant, Robbins declines to identify any of his clients, although he does say he was called in to work on financial disclosure matters for a “senior administration official.” Several others who participated in Rumsfeld’s confirmation describe Robbins’ central role. And Robbins actually appears on the disclosure report he helped prepare for Rumsfeld: Robbins & Associates LLC of Chicago is listed as a creditor to whom Rumsfeld owes between $100,001 and $250,000 for “recurring personal service fees” rendered in 2000. But Robbins was just one member of an extensive team that handled Rumsfeld’s disclosures — a team that included lawyers called in by Fred Fielding, the Wiley, Rein & Fielding partner who vetted nominees for Ronald Reagan when he was first elected president. Fielding played a similar role for President Bush earlier this year: He helped conduct background checks of potential top-level appointments, and then guided Bush’s picks through the financial disclosure process. Two of Fielding’s troops, Richard Hauser and Peter Rusthoven, tackled Rumsfeld’s financials. “It was all-consuming,” says Rusthoven, now a partner at Indianapolis’ Barnes & Thornburg. Rusthoven, like Hauser, served in the White House counsel’s office during Reagan’s first term. “We spent an awful lot of time with Terry going over this stuff, looking at drafts, going back and forth with the [Senate Armed Services] Committee, the ethics people at Defense, OGE, and Rumsfeld,” Rusthoven recalls. PRESENTING THEIR ASSETS Rumsfeld also retained Suzanne Rich Folsom, who is of counsel in O’Melveny & Myers’ D.C. office. Folsom, who worked for Barbara Bush and served as chief of staff for Jordan’s Queen Noor, says she represents a number of Bush’s senior appointees, including Rumsfeld. Her job, she says, is “helping the nominees present their assets in the best light possible.” For clients with particularly tricky portfolios, she notes, that often means “explaining to agency [ethics] officials and OGE what that asset, or that organization, really is.” In Rumsfeld’s case, Folsom and the rest of the handlers had a lot of explaining to do. Rumsfeld’s numerous investments in venture funds, hedge funds, and other limited partnerships posed the greatest challenges. The OGE wanted to know what these partnerships actually owned, and the value of Rumsfeld’s stake in each. But in some cases, one of Rumsfeld’s advisers says, the general partners didn’t want to reveal the information. And since many of the funds were investing in private companies and business ventures — not publicly traded companies — coming up with valuations was tough. For example, Rumsfeld invested in three venture funds raised by Brentwood Associates, a Los Angeles private equity partnership. Many of the funds’ investments are in private companies; Rumsfeld’s disclosure report estimates his combined position in all three funds to be worth between $3 million and $15 million. More complex cases include investments in Flag Venture Partners and Flag Growth Capital. The Stamford, Conn.-based limited partnerships invest in other venture capital, private equity, and “growth buyout” funds. And, of course, those underlying funds in turn make other investments. Rumsfeld’s report estimates the combined value of the two Flag investments at between $200,000 and $500,000. Coming to terms with the OGE on how to unpack these kinds of holdings on the disclosure report involved “many, many conversations, and many, many drafts,” one adviser says. The underlying assets of several of Rumsfeld’s partnerships ultimately were not included. By the time Robbins, Epstein, and the OGE staff gathered just before midnight on Jan. 18, another participant recalls, “it was like going to a closing.” Everything in the documents had already been negotiated. After about 45 minutes of document review, OGE General Counsel Marilynn Glynn signed off. And Robbins and Epstein immediately headed for the Senate. Just after midnight on Jan. 19, they handed Rumsfeld’s report to Scott Stucky, a counsel to Armed Services Committee member John Warner, R-Va., who was waiting for them in the rain outside a locked Senate building. Rumsfeld was voted out of committee later that day. Today, after nearly eight months in office, Rumsfeld’s finances still hang over him. According to the Department of Defense, he is required, under the terms of the ethics agreement he entered into with the Armed Services Committee, to divest a number of his illiquid investments. But after two extensions of the deadline for selling those assets, a Defense spokeswoman confirms, that process is still not complete.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.