Osborn denies connection to TARP bailout

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — Former State Treasurer Shane Osborn would probably like to crawl under a tarp.

Instead, he’s dealing deal with allegations that his securities firm helped manage the sale of the federal government’s stock in General Motors as it wound down the so-called TARP bailout program.

OSBORN: Former State Treasurer Shane Osborn

Osborn, the frontrunner in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate, is facing questions about his company’s connection with the unpopular bailout program.

The federal government bought $50 billion in GM stock as part of the $500 billion bailout of banks, insurance companies and auto companies in 2008. Last year, the Treasury Department sold $1 billion worth of GM stock as it wound down the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP.

Osborn is chief marketing officer and partner in a financial services firm called Academy Securities, which won a federal contract last year to help manage the sale of the GM stock. The firm was one of six small broker-dealers — including minority- and women-owned firms — to land the contracts to sell the stock. Osborn’s New York-based company is owned by post 9-11 military veterans.

Osborn said he didn’t benefit from the GM stock sale, and went on leave from the company in March 2013. His campaign released a statement from Academy Securities CEO R. Chance Mims saying Osborn “stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities” in March 2013, when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Mims’ letter said the company participated as a co-manager in the sale of 50 million shares of GM in June, but “did not actually place any of the shares.”

“Mr. Osborn played no role in Academy’s participation in the transaction, received no direct benefit from it, and was not even aware of it at the time,” the letter said.

However, Osborn’s financial disclosure statement, which was filed with the U.S. Senate in September, listed him as partner in Academy Securities from June 2011 to “present.” The financial disclosure covered the period from 2012 through June 2013.

He is still registered as a broker with Academy Securities, according to FINRA, the securities regulator, his LinkedIn profile still lists him as working for the firm and, during a speech in New York in November, he said, “I actually have an office here in New York — Academy Securities.”

After KOIL talk show host Tom Becka asked Osborn about the TARP connection Monday, Osborn said it’s misleading to imply his firm benefited from the bailout when the stock sale was part of the unwinding of the bailout program and the government needed broker-dealers to sell the stock.

“We weren’t the only one on that deal, there were tons of broker-dealers that were involved in this,” he said.

Osborn said he didn’t make any money off the deal, since he’s not licensed to sell stock, but rather municipal bonds.

“We didn’t even sell any of the stock,” he said. “We didn’t make any money off of TARP. We didn’t sell any GM stock.”

But he said he wasn’t sure if the company made any money off the deal. Asked whether he wouldn’t benefit financially since he’s a partner in the company, Osborn said no. However, even though Academy Securities may not have placed any orders for GM stock, they helped manage the sale, likely by finding large buyers of the stock.

Osborn’s TARP connection was reported by Politico in a Friday story that also dug into whether Osborn’s main foe, Republican Ben Sasse, did consulting work for former Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt’s health-care consulting firm. Leavitt Partners has irritated some conservatives for helping states implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which has Sasse has railed against. That story previously was reported by the Omaha World-Herald and Washington Post.

The Sasse campaign said he has never been paid by or been an employee of Leavitt Partners but did give unpaid advice on health-care information technology issues. Sasse was assistant to Leavitt when he was Health and Human Services secretary, and the two remain friends.

The Politico story did not, however, mention that Sasse has received nearly $19,000 in campaign contributions from various Leavitt Partners executives, including Mike Leavitt and his wife. Nebraska Watchdog first reported Sasse was getting donations from Leavitt employees back in October. Since then, the total amount of Leavitt donations has grown from $2,300 to $18,700.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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