|Exam Name||:||Company Notes Domino 6 Application Development Intermediate Skill|
|Questions and Answers||:||255 Q & A|
|Updated On||:||April 22, 2019|
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190-611 exam Dumps Source : Company Notes Domino 6 Application Development Intermediate Skill
Test Code : 190-611
Test Name : Company Notes Domino 6 Application Development Intermediate Skill
Vendor Name : Lotus
Q&A : 255 Real Questions
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IBM's agreement to sell (Lotus) Notes and Domino as well as Sametime and Connections to global tech enterprise HCL turned into announced closing December. The deal remains going during the regulatory approaches with a view to be finalized. So while particulars on the long- and medium-term building of IBM Connections are at present limited, we comprehend much more particulars about what's going to take place with Notes and Domino, considering that the plans were — to a huge extent — already published earlier than the announcement of the planned takeover. And the worldwide launch of Domino edition 10, which took place earlier than the announced acquisition, facets a way to this future.the secret About Domino
Domino-based functions still play a crucial and every now and then mission essential position in many agencies. even though in many circumstances those companies replaced the Notes e mail client with Outlook, the Domino apps remained. although sales pitches advised corporations “just exchange Notes apps with SharePoint,” businesses quickly found the excessive cost and complexity of constructing this type of switch, if it changed into even feasible.
So Domino purposes are nevertheless running in the again places of work that assist the enterprise. Their existence is commonly saved a secret, as a result of many of these companies now pay application licenses to Microsoft and IBM in its place of replacing Domino.
Which brings us returned to a standard electricity and a fantasy round Notes and Domino: The skill to advance an app within hours of concept. business house owners would have a brief talk with IT over lunch or on the watercooler about a enterprise problem they'd and Notes developers would design and roll out an answer in brief time. To be sincere, occasionally these apps were awful, but lots of purposes did precisely what the business house owners desired them to do.
those purposes developed on previous releases of Notes and Domino are in lots of circumstances nonetheless running with minor changes to the code over 10 years later. The Domino platform made it viable to put into effect options rapidly and comparatively inexpensively, solutions that might have required enormously greater effort in other environments for similar outcomes. regularly these options are — forgive the virtually old-customary time period — workflow applications.
related Article: Why Did IBM promote Lotus and different application products to HCL?Domino's Rebirth
For some years IBM seemed to have forgotten and disregarded this electricity of the Domino platform. Yet during the past 12 months, HCL (and IBM) rediscovered this advantage and concentrated on modernizing and expanding the percentages of Notes and Domino in swift application construction.
IBM and in flip HCL have committed to detach themselves from the heavyweight Eclipse framework. As mentioned, we have now already considered the primary prototypes of the Notes App that run on iPad, iPhone and Android. A "lightweight" customer is within the making. in the meantime, Notes purposes can additionally run within the browser due to streamlining. All this has the intention of freeing Domino and Notes from the nimbus of old-fashioned application and pointing the way to a latest future. "Domino changed into the first no-SQL database and it is improved than ever today," HCL vp and well-known manager, collaborative workflow patterns Richard Jefts is quoted as saying.
connected Article: a way to give protection to Workflows after they cross business Boundariessubsequent Steps for HCL and Domino
The strikes mark a return to Notes and Domino's roots: a device which allows for for quickly application tendencies from and for enterprise owners, whereas additionally proposing the capacity to modernize present legacy purposes efficaciously.
For Domino to proceed in the market, the goal now must be to win over new customers with the argument that Domino applications will also be developed quicker and extra economically. Analyst enterprise Forrester labored with IBM to create a profitability examine, "the full economic have an impact on of IBM Domino" (pdf), which shared striking figures when it comes to the licensing costs, substances obligatory and integral infrastructure to use the software.
beyond Domino, Jefts wants to bring the future development of solutions like Domino, Sametime, Portal, Connections and Commerce beneath one umbrella to create deeper integrations between the individual products. Rumors are additionally circling that HCL desires the Domino database to become the backend for all items. here is definitely a medium-time period imaginative and prescient as it isn't as handy to exchange the backend of IBM Connections or Portal.
For Notes and Domino, IBM and HCL have issued clear statements concerning the extra construction as much as edition eleven. This changed into viable as a result of HCL and IBM had agreed upon corresponding plans earlier than the announced takeover. For different items, corresponding to IBM Connections, valued clientele and interested events will should wait until the antitrust authorities approve the deal and the subsequent completion of the takeover. This should still take place in the now not too far-off future.
So, what does the longer term dangle for Notes, Domino and the other items? Very tough to claim. The response and remarks from users and consumer associations has so far been very fantastic. They respect a mid-time period approach and admire the refocus on the usual strengths of the products. however past constructing, modernizing and lengthening the products, HCL has to succeed in an additional area, too: It has no time to lose to beginning aggressively advertising the solutions in the key markets to retain latest valued clientele and win new ones. For an organization historically doing services business, this may be a new challenge.
Stefan Pfeiffer is working in advertising for IBM in Germany. in advance of his time at IBM he became working for FileNet (which got bought by IBM) and MIS AG.
Lotus application neighborhood bucked its contemporary vogue of tardy application birth on Thursday with the public liberate of the subsequent beta of its forthcoming Domino 6 server.
The business promised ultimately month’s Lotusphere convention that the Pre-free up 1 Beta can be delivered in 30 days. Some beta testers begun receiving code well-nigh two weeks ago, however Thursday turned into the first well-known public unencumber of the utility.
while the precise time for the general public free up became 32 days because the Lotusphere announcement, it rarely looks price noting because Lotus has now not shipped a huge improve to Domino for greater than three years.
Domino 6 and Notes 6, the customer companion to the server, is scheduled for remaining release in the Fall, but Lotus has vowed no longer to ship the software unless its good beta testers are operating it in production.
Lotus officers referred to essentially the most fresh beta is characteristic-finished, youngsters the user interface nonetheless wants some sprucing.
IT executives are obsessed with new administration, performance, integration and usability facets corresponding to clustering, aid for the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and user interface additions equivalent to unread-count number for folders.
although, the beta is devoid of Java Server Pages (JSP) aid, a characteristic that had been in the first 4 betas but become pulled final month at Lotusphere. a bunch of Notes developers inside the Notes Open source software firm try to come up with a substitute for the JSP know-how, which was referred to as Garnet.
After Beta 4 turned into launched final November, Lotus pointed out it anticipated two more beta cycles, but Lotus officials now say there isn't any firm commitment to another beta earlier than commonplace liberate of the application.
basically 100,000 users have downloaded beta code, in keeping with Lotus. The Notes and Domino 6 Pre-unlock Beta 1 is obtainable for download right here.
The server runs on Microsoft windows NT and 2000, IBM OS/four hundred, IBM AIX, sun Solaris/SPARC, and Linux (IA-32) server structures.
The customer is obtainable for windows 32-bit working techniques and Macintosh consumers, together with Mac OS X.connected download Sponsor: EDCCreate a unique selling Proposition for your international Market
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Before you start marching employees into the corner office to conduct time-consuming and sometimes contentious employee performance reviews, you should conduct another review -- figuring out exactly what your goal is in establishing an employee review process for the business.
In many ways, performance reviews begin with the employer's mindset. Is your intent to do this annually or continuously? Do you view performance reviews as an obligation or a chance to spur employees to greater performance? Are performance reviews scheduled only after you have problems with an employee or someone asks for a raise, or are they penciled in on your calendar every month or every year?
"If you view this as merely an annual process, you'll put everything off until the last moment," says Will Helmlinger, a former human resources executive for Saber Software EDS, and HP who now owns a consulting business, Your Hire Authority, based in Portland, Oregon. "However, when you think of performance reviews as an integral part of your business, you think of reviews on a more regular basis. Verbal reviews should begin early shortly after the hire date and should continue frequently until you memorialize your thoughts into your written document."
The following guide details why you should institute an employee review process, how to develop a successful review process, and how to avoid pitfalls in conducting employee reviews.
Instituting an Employee Review Process: Benefits of an Employee Review Process
Not every employer and employee has to think of performance reviews with the same dread as an appointment with the dentist. It doesn't have to be confrontational. It doesn't have to be unpleasant. It doesn't have to be viewed as merely a way to avoid any potential litigation from dissatisfied or dismissed employees.
There are actually business benefits to be gained from instituting a program of evaluating employees on a regular basis. The performance review process is an opportunity for supervisors and staff members to take time out from the daily business grind to discuss longer-range issues and plans. This is beneficial for the business because it allows leaders to spell out their expectations from employees, establish goals, and hear feedback from the rank and file. This opens up communication between employees and managers. At the same time, managers can use performance reviews to help further business goals -- for example, by motivating employees to try to increase productivity or sales.
Traditionally, many companies have employed employee reviews to reinforce good work performance while, at the same time, seeking to better the work of under performers. The underlying basis also provides a foundation for documenting measures on which to base pay increases, promotions, or punitive actions -- such as documenting grounds for dismissal.
But, in order to realize benefits, it's important for employers to get in the right mindset and understand their goals for the employee review process. The most common use of the performance review process is to document past performance. However, an emerging trend is an employee development review. The employee development review looks to the future. These reviews typically include information about past performance but have a heavier emphasis on career development, specific job and personal goals, and areas of personal growth.
"Some HR administrators view the process as a way to make sure we have ourselves covered in the case of litigation," Helmlinger says. "My objective when I do a review is to state what a person has accomplished against a set of objectives and then make it a forward-looking process. What is it that we need to accomplish from a company standpoint? What are your own personal objectives? And incorporate a career-development component -- what do you want to do next?"
Business leaders also need to determine what type of review process to implement. There are different types of employee reviews, including the following:
Dig Deeper: How to Improve Employee Retention
Instituting an Employee Review Process: Develop a Successful Employee Review Process
Once you decide to establish an employee review process there are several decisions you need to make along the way to make it a successful endeavor. You'll have to decide who will be subject to reviews. Helmlinger recommends that reviews be conducted at all levels within your organization. "This sends a clear message that performance reviews are important and favoritism doesn't exist in your company," he says.
Second, you need to decide whether to use a performance review format from an off-the-shelf software program, from a Web-based application provider, or a customized format solely for your organization. This decision may depend on the size of your business and your resources. Software packages and Web-hosted applications offer templates for various employee reviews and can help step you through the process. But if you have an office with only a handful of employees, you may just want to find a sample template and customize it for your business.
It's important to establish and communicate to both managers and employees the performance rating criteria and expectations at the outset of the performance year -- the rules of engagement, so to speak. "That's the most important thing you can do at the beginning of the performance cycle so that you are able to objectively measure an employee's performance," says Paul Rowson, managing director at World at Work, a global human resources association that focuses on compensation, benefits, work-life, and integrated total rewards. "You can't give people moving targets to aim for. You can't move the cheese."
Dig Deeper: Building a Culture of Employee Appreciation
Instituting an Employee Review Process: How to Set Employee Objectives
Rowson recommends that you develop employee goals and objectives at the beginning of the performance cycle by using the SMART formula:
Dig Deeper: 7 Tips for Motivating Employees
Instituting an Employee Review Process: How to Conduct Employee Reviews
Instead of only communicating with your employees once a year during an annual review, you should provide employees with regular feedback throughout the performance year so that they know where they stand. "There should be no surprises at the end of the year," Rowson says.
Reviews are commonly conducted approximately 60-90 days after hire, and at regular intervals thereafter. Companies normally schedule reviews around an employee's anniversary date, or conduct reviews for all employees during a designated time of the year. They can also be held more frequently, such as once a month, if it helps the business better achieve goals. Reviews typically summarize performance of tasks and duties and include areas of improvement or strength. Sometimes they will encompass goals for a future period.
Here are some tips from Helmlinger on making the review process a success.
1. Be prepared. Pull your notes and thoughts together as you review the actual performance review form. Set aside enough quiet time to reflect on each area that will be reviewed. "Take in to account the entire timeframe since the last review; never use just recent events," Helmlinger says. "Avoid including data points that catch an employee off-guard, especially dated instances." Preparation also means you will decide if you will have employees involved in drafting their own review or if you'll write the review without employee involvement. This is a critical decision since the path you take may set the tone on how you conduct the actual meeting. Employee buy-in is critical; choose your path carefully.
2. Conduct a performance review meeting. Once you have prepared for your meeting, you must set the tone for the meeting itself. Conducting an effective review with an employee requires you to do the following:
3. Follow up. Not all performance reviews are designed for a single session. You may have to re-draft the document because of the changes you've negotiated with the employee. Perhaps you have asked the employee to provide you with their evaluation without you sharing yours with them. Whatever the reason, a follow up is your ally for employee buy-in. Following up might also encompass future meetings with the employee to discuss any progress reports that may be required as part of your process. Following up demonstrates that you are committed to the employee's contributions and development.
4. Get employee feedback. Effective performance reviews involve employee feedback. Your document should always include a place for employee comments. Employees should be allowed to provide written feedback about their review. Give them the opportunity to agree or disagree with their evaluation, and let them do it in writing.
5. Set up a commitment for the next cycle. The results of the review should dictate the timeframe for the next review. If there are performance issues or specific goals that must be met, pick an appropriate intermediate time period in which to reconvene. It's a natural part of a follow up.
6. Discuss goals and career development. Employee buy-in to the performance review cycle can hinge on this step. "Most employees dread the thought of discussing historical information, yet get excited when you talk about their career development," Helmlinger says. Make this step a joint venture with your employee. Have them lay out their goals and objectives for the next three to nine months. Be sure their plans are in alignment with your organizational objectives. Then follow up with them. Without follow up, the process becomes a meaningless exercise that could negatively impact employee job satisfaction and turnover.
Dig Deeper: How to Conduct an Annual Employee Review
Instituting an Employee Review Process: Pitfalls to Avoid in Conducting Employee Reviews
Too often, employee reviews get a bad rap because they're used for pettiness or as a vehicle for a manager's favoritism. Here are some of the tendencies to avoid when rating employees during a review process:
Any type of favoritism can undermine all the good will you seek to bring to your business when instituting an employee review process.
Dig Deeper: Taking the Sting Out of Workplace Evaluations
Instituting an Employee Review Process: Additional Resources
Implementing an Effective Performance Review SystemThe Society of Human Resources Management has some advice for instituting a successful review program. http://www.shrm.org/books/performanceappraisal/excerpt.asp
Performance Review Software: http://www.authoria.com/cp/performance-review-softwareAuthoria Performance helps organizations turn employee appraisal into a tool for building a stronger workforce that can deliver greater business results.
http://www.halogensoftware.com/products/halogen-eappraisal/Halogen Software's eAppraisal offers a powerful, easy-to-use, and affordable Web-based solution for employee reviews.
http://www.insala.com/performance-management/performance-review.aspInsala's iPerformance offers a timesaving collection of tools that integrates the complete evaluation process to include job profiling, competency management, assessment, reviews, and development plan creation.
World at Workhttp://www.worldatwork.orgThis global human resources association focuses on compensation, benefits, work-life, and integrated total rewards to help organizations attract, motivate, and retain a talented workforce.
About 170,000 vehicles use the Queensboro Bridge each day, passing by Larry Misrok’s apartment building, which sits at the entrance to one of the ramps. Crossing the street there might be a daunting task for anyone, but for Misrok, an 81-year old lawyer, it could be deadly. Misrok is virtually blind.
He navigates New York’s busy streets and broken sidewalks with high-tech glasses that have a camera attached to the side, made by a company called Aira. Misrok calls up an app on his telephone, which puts him in touch with one of Aira’s hundreds of workers around the country, who then commandeer the camera on his glasses and narrate his surroundings for him. “Watch out, there’s a curb coming,” or “There’s a cyclist coming up on your right,” the Aira helper might say. It’s not like having 20/20 sight, but it’s enough to get him to the grocery store half a block away—provided he turns away from the bridge ramp and not toward it.
Misrok’s troubles began in the 1970s, when he started seeing floaters in his eyes. “I thought it was a result of getting my head banged with a basketball the year before,” he says. He went to a local eye doctor but was told his problem was beyond their expertise. After trips to the head of ophthalmology at Montefiore hospital, and then a stream of experts at Mt. Sinai, New York University, Johns Hopkins, and the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, he learned he had a rare autoimmune disease that caused inflammation in his eyes, destroying a layer of his retina.
The condition, known technically as birdshot chorioretinopathy, causes severe, progressive inflammation of the retina and the choroid, the vascular layer of the eye. It’s named “birdshot” for the small light-colored fundus spots that appear on the retina, which are scattered in a pattern like birdshot from a shotgun. “Right now, I can’t see you very well,” he says as I sit two feet away from him. “I know someone’s there, but I can’t tell if you’re smiling or frowning.”
Not without Aira, anyway. I went to visit him one Saturday afternoon to learn how the technology worked. When we’re ready to take a walk, Misrok puts on the glasses and headset with earphones, calls up the Aira app, and dials into an agent. Carl in Los Angeles picks up.
“I’m Larry Misrok. We’re going to go for a walk out of my apartment. Is the visual working well? I know you have audio,” he says as we step out of his apartment.
“The visual seems to be working,” the agent replies.
With his cell phone in one hand, a white cane in the other, Larry and I walk down the hallway. By the time we reach the elevator, we lose the connection, and the agent is gone.
About 1.3 million Americans are legally blind. Another 2.9 million have a visual impairment, defined as having sight worse than 20/40 in a person’s better eye, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health. That’s 4.2 million people who have limited or no sight, a jump from 3.3 million people recorded in 2000. That figure is expected to grow to about 7.2 million in 2030 and 13 million by 2050.
Not all who can’t see are born blind. A spectrum of disorders exists that can cause people to lose some or all of their sight over the course of decades. Deficits usually occur in the two photoreceptors involved in sight: rods, which handle dim light and night vision and seeing in black and white, and cones, which handle daylight and bright vision and seeing in color. These photoreceptors are located in the retina, a thin layer in the back of the eye. If you think of the eye as a camera, the retina would be the film. The retina also contains the nerves that tell the brain what the photoreceptors are "seeing."
“I don’t want to rely on anything. I want to rely on myself as much as possible," says Larry.
The most common serious eye problems are retinal degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, a disease that causes a progressive loss of central vision, and retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of genetic conditions that usually begin with night blindness but often evolve into tunnel vision. There’s also Stargardt disease, an inherited form of macular degeneration caused by the death of photoreceptor cells in the central portion of the retina called the macula, and Usher syndrome, an inherited condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss.
As the number of those afflicted has grown, so has the number of tools to help them navigate. Many are readily available to anyone with a smart phone, like the VoiceOver feature on iPhones, which tells users which buttons they’re pressing, or GPS apps that let users know where they’re standing in the middle of a city, can announce bus and train stops, and vibrate every time a street is crossed.
There’s a popular app called Be My Eyes, that, like Aira, puts the user in touch with sighted workers who commandeer the user’s cell phone camera to help them see prescription labels, thermostat temperatures or how much money they’re holding in their hand. Richard Faubion, a development director for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, who is severely visually impaired himself, says he’ll call a Be My Eyes worker to tell him if his tie matches his shirt, whether he’s holding a can of peas or green beans, or if his suitcase is about to go by at an airport luggage carousel.
For computer work, there’s JAWS (Job Access With Speech) and Microsoft’s NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) software that reads aloud the text on a screen and tells the user what they are typing as they type. SeeingAI, developed by Microsoft, combines many tools into one app, using artificial intelligence to describe people, text, and objects.
“Technology can be an extremely powerful tool for someone who is visually impaired if it is used along with a person’s other skills and abilities,” says Ryan Jones, a legally blind program manager with VFO Group, which helps companies become more accessible to users with disabilities. “These types of programs allow equal access to opportunities and careers for people who are visually impaired. They’re in just about every type of profession you can think of—except maybe airline pilot.”
Misrok and I walk through the lobby of his building and head toward the street, to see if the internet connection is better outside. He extends his cane out in front of him as he enters the revolving door. When he pops out the other side, he heads toward the driveway in front of his building but stops under some scaffolding, which probably doesn’t help with the internet but I’m not sure he even knows it’s there. Holding the cane under one arm, he uses both hands to hold the phone and double-tap the app. Every now and again, he puts his ear toward the phone to make sure he’s not missing any vital instructions.
"The [remote assistants] keep me on the road, not walking off into the bushes."
The 120-some-odd paid agents across the country are told in an initial “onboarding” session what the user’s preferences are: the type of information they want, how detailed, and how they want it transmitted: Do they want details described as being to the left or right, or do they prefer degrees or hands on a clock?
Users then pay from $99 a month for 120 minutes to $199 a month for 300 minutes. Aira used to provide the glasses free of charge but now sells them. Misrok got his about two years ago.
Misrok says he finds the glasses very helpful in Massachusetts, where he has a home in the Berkshires. “I can walk down paths alone through the woods, and they keep me on the road, not walking off into the bushes,” he says. “I don’t need them for going to work. I have good staff.”
“These are some of the problems with technology, and some of the frustrations when you’re visually handicapped,” he says, as we stand waiting for the traffic light to change.
Is this why you don’t want to rely on it?, I ask.
“I don’t want to rely on anything. I want to rely on myself as much as possible,” he says.
Vision animation by Karl Spurzem.
Alex Bindel avoids gadgets altogether. He’s holding out for the technology that will give him all of his sight back. He’s been waiting a long time. Now 51, Bindel (which is not his real name—he requested a pseudonym out of concern that going public with his condition would affect his business) was diagnosed with RP at the age of 12, and at this point, about 99 percent of his rods are nonfunctional.
He remembers the heartache he felt when he first felt the burden of impairment. One night he went to a bonfire with an older cousin with whom he was close but who didn’t yet know about his condition. While he could see the bonfire, he could see little else in the dark, and his cousin, Robert, kept saying, “Go sit over there.”
“I was like, ‘Where?’ And he kept saying, “Over there!’” Bindel says. Unable to see, he just sat down where he was and wound up sitting on top of someone, embarrassing his cousin, who yelled at him in front of everyone.
“To this day, it's my biggest nightmare to be in a situation at night in the woods,” he says.
Being night blind, Bindel never went out to bars or clubs, and he preferred to only take women out on dates only during the day, because if he went out for a drink or to the movies, the lights would be too dim to hide his disease.
“I never wanted people to know. I never wanted people to treat me differently," says Alex.
It’s not been all bad. His disease compelled him to leave a computer consulting job in Los Angeles, sell everything he owned, buy a motorcycle and travel across the country. A few years later, he packed up again to see the world, traveling on and off for three years, seeing 40 countries, hitchhiking around Europe, and taking on odd jobs. He milked cows in Norway, picked grapes in France, taught English in Italy. And he met a woman and moved with her to Namibia, where he lives now.
“I feared I wouldn’t be able to see it all before I went blind,” he says.
He’s lost his peripheral vision and has an even harder time seeing at night now. Like many with poor vision, he makes up for his handicap by using his memory, making mental notes of his surroundings, counting the number of steps until he reaches the floor, an approach that works until he stumbles upon something unexpected, like a chair someone has left in the middle of the hallway.
And yet, outside of enlarging the font on his computer, Bindel has always spurned technology for the visually impaired. He only recalls buying two gadgets. One was a night-vision scope he purchased in college. It was a military-grade hand-held telescope so strong that he needed a letter from his doctor to buy it. You close one eye and look through it with the other, and you can basically see in pitch black, he says.
The other was a really bright light that was rechargeable and would attach to a video camera. He purchased it at a conference for the visually impaired but realized after buying it that it was absolutely useless because anything bright enough for him to use in, say, a dark place like a movie theater was a floodlight to the seeing population.
“It’s a freaking bright light. It doesn't make social sense to use that, you know?” he says. “I tried it once. I went to the movies and turned it on and everyone was like, ‘Hey, what the hell man? What are you doing?!’ It was horrible.” He put it in a box and never took it out again.
“I didn't feel comfortable using it,” he says. “I never wanted people to know. I still don't. I never wanted people to treat me differently.”
Instead of loading up on gadgets, Bindel has been waiting for a genetic cure.
“I always said I was born at the exact right moment in time because the technology and the research may be there to help me by the time I need it. And I still feel that,” he says.
He may be right. Researchers are currently trying to fix the broken genes that cause vision loss in the first place. One growing area of research involves replacing the problematic gene with a copy of a functioning one. The new gene is transported into the relevant area by a viral vector, which experts liken to a taxi cab. The new gene is the passenger in the cab. The viral vector transfects the cell—it injects it with the new gene, rather than viral material.
The farthest along is voretigene neparvovec (or Luxturna), which received regulatory approval from the FDA in December 2017. Created by Spark Therapeutics, the treatment is for people with vision loss from mutations in the gene RPE65 leading to Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and RP and some other conditions. Nearly all patients with RPE65 mutations go virtually blind.
“If I had to bet on where the big breakthroughs are going to be I’d have to say gene editing."
“Gene therapies have several outcomes: slowing, halting, or fixing,” says Daniel Chung, clinical ophthalmic and medical strategy lead at Spark Therapeutics. “With Luxturna, we’ve seen increased light sensitivity. For others, their success may be just halting the disease or slowing its progression.”
Nacuity Pharmaceuticals is developing a molecule, known as N-acetylcysteine-amide (NACA), designed to slow vision loss in RP patients by protecting retinal cells from oxidative stress, a process that accelerates degeneration in many inherited retinal conditions. So far, studies show NACA can slow retinal degeneration in rodents.
There’s a clinical trial for a drug called ALK-001, a modified Vitamin A, to address the genetic defect associated with Stargardt disease, which is caused by a lack of a protein that helps process Vitamin A. Photoreceptors need vitamin A to function but without the protein, fatty vitamin A byproducts can linger. ALK-001 reduces the likelihood vitamin A will bind to itself and form a toxic byproduct.
Applied Genetic Technologies has clinical trials underway to test the safety and efficacy of gene therapy products meant to address achromatopsia, or ACHM, an inherited condition resulting from mutations in the CNGB3 or CNGA3 genes. Most people with ACHM are legally blind, have extreme light sensitivity resulting in daytime blindness, and are color blind. The company has tested their replacement genes on dogs and sheep, where they put drops in the animals’ eyes to temporarily bring on symptoms of ACHM. They have the animals move through a maze. The animals are then treated with the drug and put in the maze again. Both dogs and sheep were able to get to the end of the maze more quickly.
Nightstar, a gene therapy company based in the U.K., has been undergoing clinical trials to address choroideremia, a mutation in the CHM gene that leads to degeneration of the choroid (Misrok’s vision is affected by choroid damage). In the first trials, patients received injections under their retina with a liquid that delivered healthy copies of the gene encoding the REP-1 protein to affected cells. In studies, more than 90 percent of participants reported that their visual acuity was maintained or improved a year later.
While those treatments involve swapping out the bad gene and replacing it with a good one, another burgeoning field of therapy involves leaving the broken gene in place but simply fixing it. “Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” or CRISPR—which you likely first heard about last year when an uproar in the bio-ethical community ensued after a Chinese scientist announced he’d created the first babies with CRISPR-edited genes—involves swapping the mutated portion of the gene with a healthy piece of DNA. One researcher likened it to replacing the battery or the starter in a car rather than buying a new one.
CRISPR is a gigantic breakthrough in genetics, says Stephen Daiger, a professor of environmental and genetic sciences and ophthalmology at the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center. “It’s relatively inexpensive and conceptually easy to do, but we’re still at the very early stages of doing this with humans and working on the retina,” Daiger says. “If I had to bet on where the big breakthroughs are going to be over the next (decade), I’d have to say its gene editing.”
On the plus side, CRISPR may be the only option for diseases caused by genes that are too large to fit in a viral carrier (taxi cab). Some also see CRISPR and the idea of repairing rather than replacing a gene as a simpler approach to treating disease. The downside? Repairing rather than replacing doesn’t always work well enough to restore vision. It’s also unclear whether tampering with DNA will affect other otherwise healthy genes in the body.
"I ask if I could try the glasses. I listen to Noah describe everything in front of me."
Regardless, people are trying it. There are CRISPR projects at Johns Hopkins University aimed at RP caused by the P23H mutation in a gene called RHO. At Columbia University, researchers are looking at RP caused by the D190N mutation in RHO. At the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, they’re studying RP caused by a mutation in RP1. And the University of California, Los Angeles, has focused on Usher syndrome 1B caused by a mutation in MYO7A.
But before someone can fix a gene, scientists have to determine which one is broken. Daiger’s lab at the University of Texas has identified a number of genes associated with various retinal diseases. Faubion, for instance, has X-linked RP, which is an inherited condition caused by mutations in the RPGR gene. He’s fortunate that his specific mutation is one currently being studied in clinical trials around the country. For many mutations, there are no trials yet.
When I go back to Misrok’s apartment a few weeks later, I find him sitting at his kitchen table with the glasses already on. He dials, and is soon talking to Noah in Minnesota through the earpiece that sat on his temples. Noah describes to Misrok everything that was in front of him as Misrok’s camera surveys the room.
I ask if I could try the glasses. With my eyes open, I listen to Noah describe everything in front of me. The kidney shaped coffee table to my right. The bookshelf to the left. The doorway to the kitchen in front of me. Walking through the kitchen, Noah describes the refrigerator and countertops, as I run my hand along them.The Queensboro bridge, passing by Larry’s neighborhood.
Renato BordoniGetty Images
But I quickly see pitfalls. He fails to describe the area rug under my foot, and I almost trip on it. And the directions are coming so fast, countertop colors, tabletop patterns, I imagine that if I couldn’t see, I would have trouble deciphering what was relevant. Doing it outside on a Manhattan street, with all the cars, buses, traffic lights, people, strollers and bicycles, would feel like an onslaught.
I give the glasses back to Misrok, and we make our way to Whole Foods, this time with the help of Ashley in Sacramento. The store is only half a block away so many things could go wrong. At one point, we stand in the middle of a bike lane. We then have to cross Second Avenue and its six lanes of heavy traffic. I’m relieved when we finally get to the store.
When we get back to his apartment, I try the glasses again—this time, with my eyes closed. I quickly get tangled in a corner of the living room near what was initially described as a bedroom door but turns out to be a glass door to a balcony. Holding Misrok’s cane, I keep tapping the walls of the corner, bouncing between the shelf and the chair like a Pong cursor. I finally open my eyes to free myself from the corner and then close them again to head into the living room.
When I’m done, I tell Misrok, “I cheated a couple of times. I opened my eyes.”
Misrok laughs. “I wish I could cheat.”
Unlike at other conferences, the tables and chairs in all of the rooms at the “Visions” annual conference of the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ annual conference, “Visions,” are arranged to maximize the walking space. Food is organized on the dinner plates like a clock, with, say, mashed potatoes at 3 o’clock and meat at 6 o’clock. And there’s a pen outside the conference area with a big sign that reads, “Guide Dog Relief Area.”
Although the conference is prized for its educational and networking opportunities, it becomes clear as the day progresses that despite the nice hotel, the boat trip and tour, the schmoozing with like-minded individuals, people are primarily there to find clinical trials that fit their specific disease.
In a panel on stem-cell-related research, attendees are told that while stem cells transplanted into humans may be used to cure retinal disease in the future, there’s still a major flaw: Once they’re transplanted in the body, scientists lose track of them.
It becomes clear people are at the convention to find trials that fit their specific disease.
“We can find out where they’re going in the animal, but we can’t find out where they’re going in people. We need better methods of imaging,” says Dennis Clegg, founder of the University of California/Santa BarbaraCenter for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering.
Replacing the whole retina also has its issues. There are apparently 1.2 million wires that take information from the retina and deposit it in a one-to-one correlation with the cells from the brain. If you disconnect the retina, you have to deal with that, say researchers.
“You can actually take an eye from one rat and put it into another, but the retinal cells weren’t connected to the brain,” Clegg says. “They said, okay, we’ll figure that one out later.”
After sitting in on some of the panels, I go into the exposition hall, where there are rows and rows of products to help people navigate their surroundings. There’s a smart cane that clips on to a traditional cane and enables users to not just feel what’s on the ground in front of them but to identify objects above the waist. When it senses an obstruction from knee to head height, it begins to vibrate. The user can then stop, wave the cane in the air to find the obstruction and avert it. The range is three meters, and the vibration speeds up as the user gets closer to the object.Chart by George Mayerle for the purpose of testing vision, 1907.
Courtesy National Library of MedicineGetty Images
A few rows down is a prosthetic retina, called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis, which can restore some vision to people with RP and other retinal conditions. Developed by Second Sight Medical Products, it has already received market approval from the FDA and is now being used by more than 100 people around the world.
“This is the glasses part, and then there is an implant, surgically embedded in the eye of someone with retinitis pigmentosa,” says Mickey Damelio, senior vision rehabilitation manager at Second Sight.
He’s holding up a rubber model of an eye with little red lines all over the eyeball that look like wires. The implant provides electrical stimulation of the retina to induce visual perception. A miniature video camera housed in the patient's glasses captures a scene. The video is sent to a small computer that the patient wears that processes and transforms the electrical signals into instructions transmitted wirelessly to an antenna in the retinal implant. The implant contains an electrode array that emits small pulses of electricity. These pulses bypass the individual’s damaged photoreceptors and stimulate the retina's remaining cells, which then transmit the visual information along the optic nerve to the brain, creating the perception of patterns of light. Patients learn to interpret these visual patterns over time.
“Patients report that it’s talking to them in flashes or sparkles. Seeing a sunset? Not happening."
“There’s a lot of people here with RP, which shrinks people’s field of vision over time,” Damelio says. “When that field is gone or almost gone, we can install this on their eye and return some light sensitivity to them.”
When I put on the glasses, I see a blurry mess. I can’t imagine considering this product a gift. Damelio shows me a video of a man wearing the technology.
“He’s totally blind, but when he wears the glasses with this implant, he can discriminate between things,” Damelio says. “The patients will report that it’s talking to them in flashes or sparkles, and then from that, they can learn some fairly functional skills. But going and seeing a sunset? Not happening really,” he says.
In a booth around the corner was IrisVision, whose founders have created software for hardware that already exists: Samsung’s headsets for virtual reality gaming. The product sells for $2,500 and involves a camera that projects on a screen. In between your eyes and the screen are magnification lenses that make what the user sees look like a big screen TV up close, according to Zarak Afridi, director of strategic partnerships for IrisVision. The product can magnify images by one to 12 times, depending on what the wearer needs at that moment. Some situations may warrant six while others, like reading, may require 10.
Afridi says he once showed the product to a woman with RP, who like all people with RP, had lost her peripheral vision and her central vision had become reduced, like she was looking through a straw. She really wanted to see her daughter, he says.
“We spent almost an hour with her wearing the (glasses), and she found the spot where she still had some vision left, and she saw her.”
Tom Perski, who handles professional and consumer outreach for IrisVision, says he has Stargardt and his vision is 20 over 400. With his company’s device, he can see 20 over 40. And it has the added advantage of having a larger field of view than that of his competitors. Typically, the more you zoom in the camera, the smaller your field of view. With IrisVision, the camera is doing only part of the work, while the software and the magnifying lenses are doing the rest. The less the camera has to zoom in, the more field of view one can see, he says.
The booth of most interest to me was the Aira glasses. The second morning of the conference they perform a demonstration. Amy Bernal, vice president, customer experience at Aira, wears the glasses while a man named Kyle used Amy’s camera to guide her across the room.
“It’s like having a personal assistant available to you at any time,” Bernal says, noting that the person on the phone can call Uber or Lyft for you, and because of the data points that come up during the call, can know whether you’re allergic to certain foods.
What happens if you lose the cell signal, I ask an Aira representative, who says the product is not meant as a safety device. The user must still use a cane and dog.
“Think of it as a phone. What would you do if you didn’t have cell service?” the rep says.
After the presentation, I approach Sujeeth Kanuganti, the company’s chief technology officer, who points out that Misrok has an older generation of the product, which supported only a WiFi connection while the newer version, its fifth generation, called Horizon, uses a cellular connection. To get a cell or 4G LTE connection, the older versions had to use a device called a MIFI, which takes in WiFi connections and routes the data to a 4G network.
“It’s like having a personal assistant available to you at any time.”
“So before, we had the glasses, the MIFI and you then had a connection from the MIFI to the 4G LTE network. With the multiple hops, it’s tough to maintain the connection,” Kanuganti says, noting that the tall buildings in big cities like New York don’t help. “The signal is bouncing everywhere, so getting a connection is a problem.”
The company simplified the glasses by having them connect directly to the 4G LTE network. The glasses now have a cable coming in from the back that goes directly into a Samsung device that gives direct 4G LTE service.
“It provides good connectivity with the cellular without any intermediate hops,” he says.
When Larry Misrok told Aira about his connectivity problems, they sent him new glasses with a new MIFI device, but it was still the old technology. Apparently, the company hadn’t made enough of its new Horizon model to fill all the orders it had.
I met Misrok at his office on Long Island a couple of months after our last visit, and when I arrived, he showed me his Aira alternative: the Be My Eyes app, which he uses when the Wi-Fi signal isn’t working. Be My Eyes uses the phone’s own camera so it only needs a cell phone signal. He used it recently when he went for a walk near his home in the Berkshires because the Wi-Fi signal was too spotty to get Aira.
He speaks to a person named Jennie from Georgia, and holds the phone up to his law library and asks her if she can read the titles on the binders of the books. She says she can’t, that they were too blurry. I then hold the camera closer to the books and at just the right angle—because I could see what that angle should be—and Jennie begins to reel off the titles of the books.
When I left him in his conference room to go catch a train, the secretaries in his law office had just brought back food for their lunch and are sitting down at the conference table to eat.
“Larry, we got you a salad,” says the assistant who had worked there the longest. Misrok walks into the conference and uses the aids to which he’s most accustomed: the kindness of those who love him.
James Sanderson had encountered a rare moment of industrial harmony.
It was the early 1990s, and the 750 men and women at Georgetown Steel were pumping out wire rods at peak performance. They had an abiding trust in management’s ability to run a smart company. That allegiance was rewarded with fat profit-sharing checks. In the basement-wage economy of Georgetown, South Carolina, Sanderson and his co-workers were blue-collar aristocracy.
“We were doing very good,” says Sanderson, president of Steelworkers Local 7898. “The plant was making money, and we had good profit-sharing checks, and everything was going well.”
What he didn’t know was that it was about to end. Hundreds of miles to the north, in Boston, a future presidential candidate was sizing up Georgetown’s books.
At the time, Mitt Romney had been running Bain Capital since 1984, minting a reputation as a prince of private investment. A future prospectus by Deutsche Bank would reveal that by the time he left in 1999, Bain had averaged a shimmering 88 percent annual return on investment. Romney would use that success to launch his political career.
His specialty was flipping companies—or what he often calls “creative destruction.” It’s the age-old theory that the new must constantly attack the old to bring efficiency to the economy, even if some companies are destroyed along the way. In other words, people like Romney are the wolves, culling the herd of the weak and infirm.
His formula was simple: Bain would purchase a firm with little money down, then begin extracting huge management fees and paying Romney and his investors enormous dividends.
The result was that previously profitable companies were now burdened with debt. But much like the Enron boys, Romney’s battery of MBAs fancied themselves the smartest guys in the room. It didn’t matter if a company manufactured bicycles or contact lenses; they were certain they could run it better than anyone else.
Bain would slash costs, jettison workers, reposition product lines, and merge its new companies with other firms. With luck, they’d be able to dump the firm in a few years for millions more than they’d paid for it.
But the beauty of Romney’s thesis was that it really didn’t matter if the company succeeded. Because he was yanking out cash early and often, he would profit even if his targets collapsed.
Which was precisely the fate awaiting Georgetown Steel.
When Bain purchased the mill, Sanderson says, change was immediate. Equipment upgrades stopped. Maintenance became an afterthought. Managers were replaced by people who knew nothing about steel. The union’s profit-sharing plan was sliced twice in the first year—then whacked altogether.
“When Bain Capital took over, it seemed like everything was being neglected in our plant,” Sanderson says. “Nothing was being invested in our plant. We didn’t have the necessary time to maintain our equipment. They had people here that didn’t know what they were doing. It was like they were taking money from us and putting it somewhere else.”
History would prove him correct. While Georgetown was beginning its descent to bankruptcy, Romney was helping himself to the company’s treasury.
The Working Man’s Villain
He should have known better. The year before Romney purchased Georgetown, he mounted his career in politics, setting his sights on the biggest target in Massachusetts: the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy.
There were early signs that he might topple the Kennedy dynasty. Much like today, Romney was pitching himself as a commander of the economy, a man with the mastery to create jobs. Yet he suffered an affliction common to those atop the financial food chain: He assumed that what was good for him was good for all. Call it trickle-down blindness.
In the midst of that 1994 campaign, one of Romney’s companies, American Pad & Paper, bought a plant in Marion, Indiana. At the time, it was prosperous enough to be running three shifts.
Bain’s first move was to fire all 258 workers, then invite them to reapply for their jobs at lower wages and a 50 percent cut in health care benefits.
“They came in and said, ‘You’re all fired,'” employee Randy Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. “‘If you want to work for us, here’s an application.’ We had insurance until the end of the week. That was it. It was brutal.”
But instead of reapplying, the workers went on strike. They also decided the good people of Massachusetts should know what kind of man wanted to be their senator. Suddenly, Indiana accents were showing up in Kennedy TV ads, offering tales of Romney’s villainy. He was sketched as a corporate Lucifer, one who wouldn’t blink at crushing little people if it meant prettying his portfolio.
Needless to say, this wasn’t a proper leading man’s role for a labor state like Massachusetts. Taking just 41 percent of the vote, Romney was pounded in the election. Meanwhile, the Marion plant closed just six months after Bain’s purchase. The jobs were shipped to Mexico.
Yet Romney didn’t learn his lesson. He seemed incapable of noticing that his brand of “creative destruction” left a lot of human wreckage in its wake. Or that voters might see him as more scumbag than saint.
Just a few months after being hammered by Kennedy, he set fire to another company.
The Price of Incompetence
The move was classic Bain. Before buying Georgetown, Romney had purchased the Armco steel mill in Kansas City, Missouri, which had been in business for more than 100 years.
“We were setting a lot of records for production at that time,” says employee Steve Morrow. “We were making a lot of money because we were getting profit sharing.”
Bain combined Armco with the mill in Georgetown and foundries in Tempe, Arizona, and Duluth, Minnesota, to form the newly christened GS Industries.
Romney purchased Armco with just $8 million down and borrowed the rest of the $75 million price tag. Then he issued bonds—basically IOUs—to borrow even more to pay himself and his investors $36 million.
Within a year, he’d already made four times his initial investment while barely lifting a finger. But he’d also run up a staggering $378 million in debt on GSI’s tab.
Steel is an infamously cyclical business, a worldwide commodity prone to the same wild price fluctuations as oil. The Kansas City plant forged parts for equipment used in mining gold and copper, leaving it susceptible to the instability of those markets as well.
Yet the smartest guys in the room thought they could run the plant better than the people setting production records.
“They were getting rid of old managers and hiring new managers that didn’t have any steel experience,” Morrow says. “Some of the guys were nice guys and everything, but they didn’t have a clue what was going on.”
Many of the new supervisors were ex-military, people who believed that grown men and women are best motivated by punishment. Before Bain, says Morrow, “everybody got along.”
Afterward? “They wanted to run the plant like a disciplinary environment. They wanted to discipline people for getting hurt on the job. They wanted to put us in an environment like a war, where we were always fighting with them.”
Romney was charging GSI $900,000 a year in management fees to run the company. The Kansas City mill received $900,000 worth of ineptitude in return.
Although Bain borrowed $97 million to retool the plant so it could also produce wire rods, it left the rest of the facility to rot.
To save costs, Bain went miserly on everything from maintenance to spare parts and earplugs. Equipment deteriorated. Because the new managers didn’t know how to repair it, “they’d want to rent a new piece of equipment out instead of maintaining what we had,” Morrow says. The waste and inefficiency was breathtaking.
Bain’s plan all along was to streamline the company into greater profitability, then reap the rewards with a public stock offering. But the exact opposite was happening. Even Roger Regelbrugge, whom Bain installed as CEO, knew the debt was crushing GSI from within, according to Reuters. If a public offering didn’t materialize, the company would collapse.
Steel was about to enter a periodic downturn. Countries around the world were locked in a war of tariffs and government-subsidized production, creating a glut and driving down prices. Romney’s strategy of the flip was never meant to endure difficult times.
Workers saw the end coming; they were particularly worried that Bain was badly underfunding their pension plan. So they went on strike in 1997, bringing a traditional Rust Belt flair to the festivities by littering the streets with nails and gunning bottle rockets at security guards.
When it was all over, the steelworkers union agreed to wage and vacation cuts in exchange for extra health and pension safeguards should the plant close.
Yet GSI was now hemorrhaging money, says David Foster, the union official who negotiated the deal. He claims that Bain cursed the company by placing its own interests above those of customers or long-term stability.
“Like a lot of private equity firms, Bain managed the company for financial results, not production results,” Foster says. “It didn’t invest in maintenance or immediate customer needs. All that came second to meeting monthly financial goals.”
It would take a few more years of bleeding, but GSI eventually fell to bankruptcy.
The Kansas City mill closed for good; 750 people lost their jobs. Worse, Romney had shorted their pension fund by $44 million. The feds were forced to cover the difference, while workers saw their benefits slashed in bankruptcy court.
The battered Georgetown plant and the foundries in Arizona and Minnesota ultimately were bought out of bankruptcy by new companies. Their workforces were halved.
Still, Romney walked away unbruised. All that debt was technically GSI’s, not Bain’s. Because he’d repaid himself and his investors just months after the purchase, Romney pocketed millions for running the company into the ground.
“They were clever and ruthless enough to pay their own investors back at a really high return rate,” Foster says.
This was the beauty of Romney’s racket. Even if he killed a company—and he tended to kill them fairly often—he still made out, leaving others to take the hit.
The Parasitic Capitalist
On the campaign trail, Romney describes his work at Bain as resurrecting distressed companies. In this version, he’s the white knight lifting troubled firms from the precipice of failure.
Private equity companies like Bain rarely buy anything but profitable firms for one compelling reason: The patient must be healthy enough to be force-fed all that debt. So it’s something of a misnomer for Republican opponents to slur him as a “vulture capitalist.”
“Romney is not a vulture capitalist, as Rick Perry says, since vultures eat dead carcasses,” notes Josh Kosman, who has written about the private equity business for 15 years. He’s “more of a parasitic capitalist, since he destroys profitable businesses.”
Judging by the title of his book—The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy—it’s safe to assume that Kosman is no fan of the industry. But he concedes that the business isn’t inherently wicked.
The game works like this: Big-money investors write checks to people like Romney, who pool that money to buy or invest in other companies. Internal company documents show that a year before Romney left Bain in 1999, one of his funds had reached a massive $10 billion.
Although Bain requires a $1 million minimum for a seat at the table, its investors don’t just come from the wealthiest 1 percent. They also include college endowments and teachers’ pension funds.
Jon Burgstone, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, sees private equity as essential to the economy. He might be a member of President Obama’s National Finance Committee, but he’s still an admirer of Bain.
“Generally, private equity companies invest in larger firms that need reorganization or in smaller companies that need growth capital,” he says. And their management can usually benefit from “very bright Bain consultants.”
That feeling is shared by Steven Kaplan, among the foremost scholars in the field. The University of Chicago finance professor says that, statistically speaking, firms like Bain improve a company’s cash flow while providing investors with a better return than the stock market.
There’s no question that Romney had a gift for minting money. In 1986, he bought medical-equipment manufacturer Calumet Coach for just $1 million, later flipping it for $34 million. He made 16 times his initial investment in the Gartner Group, a technology-research firm.
In what was perhaps his crowning achievement, he bought the money-losing Wesley Jessen VisionCare for $6 million in 1994. Seven years later, it was sold for a dazzling $300 million.
Kaplan argues that critics rarely mention these success stories, preferring to “cherry-pick” deals that paint Romney as unmerciful and gluttonous. “I think it’s quite unfair,” he says. “He was extremely successful at Bain, generating returns for his investors. Bain Capital had a tremendous track record. When you invest in dozens of companies, some of those deals don’t work out.”
But if critics are quick to disregard Romney’s triumphs, defenders are equally swift to rationalize his catastrophes. They’ll note that for all of Romney’s bankruptcies, most were rescued by new companies and survive today. It’s the final dollar tally that matters.
Yet they seem strangely incurious about the ruin he has delivered across the country. Take Kansas City, for example.
The Armco plant closing involved more than the torching of 750 jobs, Morrow says. Contractors and suppliers collapsed. Workers’ children and widows lost health care and pension benefits. And while Bain received millions in tax breaks—paid for by the very people left holding the bag—Romney walked away millions richer.
So one might forgive everyday Americans for feeling they’re on the wrong end of a rigged game, one where the wealthy always win—no matter how inept—and the little guy is left to hack through the debris.
Bain is a private company, meaning it has no obligation to reveal its practices. It has never made public a list of companies it has purchased (nor would Bain or the Romney campaign comment for this story).
So in January, The Wall Street Journal did its best to piece together Romney’s track record, reviewing 77 investments made under his direction. It turned out that nearly one in three of the companies experienced severe financial trouble. One in five wound up in bankruptcy.
The more telling figure: Of Romney’s 10 biggest moneymakers, he ultimately destroyed four of them, leaving bankruptcy judges to clean up the mess.
As Foster sees it, Romney was an early pioneer of gaming the system. It would take another decade before large banks used many of the same principles to detonate the mortgage industry.
“The great irony is that his entire management experience at Bain Capital is buying companies and loading them up with debt and then looting the balance sheet,” Foster says. “It’s the very model that drove the American economy off the cliff then left other people to manage the wreckage.”
The Job Assassin
Renee Fry doesn’t recognize the tin man she sees on TV, the candidate so congenitally wooden that he makes Al Gore seem like Flavor Flav. She was Romney’s deputy chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts. The guy she served was warm and considerate, quick to distill data and seize the big picture.
“I’m lucky because I know him from the day-to-day Mitt,” Fry says. “He liked going out and talking to people and learning from people. The Mitt I know had a real appreciation for people.”
But if Romney played the friendly politician, kindness wasn’t his specialty at Bain. Rewarding CEOs with huge bonuses, he was generous to ranking executives. Yet he tended to treat those below his pay grade as little more than machinery.
Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain and says that providing work for Americans was a primary company goal.
He cites Domino’s, Sports Authority, and Staples, companies that added jobs after Bain bought in.
But Bain bought Domino’s just months before Romney left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, meaning someone else created those jobs. And he didn’t manage Staples or Sports Authority; Bain was a minority investor.
By Romney’s logic, any large investor—say, the Texas teachers’ pension fund—also creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. The boast is so foolish that his campaign has since backed away from it.
Even Kaplan admits that private equity firms rarely create jobs. Workers are seen as costs, and costs are the enemy. According to Kosman, Romney was in truth among the most heinous job-killers of them all.
While writing his book, Kosman conducted an interview with a Bain managing partner. The man told him that when Bain was about to buy a company, its partners would hold a meeting. “He said that about half the time [they] would talk about cutting workers,” Kosman says. “They would never talk about adding workers. He said that job growth was never part of the plan.”
That claim was buttressed by the Associated Press, which studied 45 companies bought by Bain during Romney’s first decade. It found that 4,000 workers lost their jobs. The real figure is likely thousands higher, since the analysis didn’t account for bankruptcies and factory and store closings.
An example of Romney’s cold-blooded approach is his 1994 purchase of Dade International, an Illinois medical-equipment company. He soon merged it with two similar firms, a move that tripled sales.
Once again, he couldn’t help but raid the vault, peeling away $100 million for himself and investors at the same time Dade was laying off 1,700 American workers.
After Bain closed a Dade plant in Puerto Rico, human-resources manager Cindy Hewitt was asked to lure a dozen of those employees to work in the company’s Miami factory.
But that plant soon closed as well. Although Romney was gobbling up millions, Bain still wanted those laid-off employees to repay their moving costs.
“They were treated horribly,” Hewitt told The New York Times. “There was absolutely no concern for the employees. It was truly and completely profit-focused.”
Yet Bain’s molestation wasn’t complete. It was trying to sell Dade but didn’t like the offers it received on the open market. So it created an artificial market of its own.
In 1999, it forced Dade to borrow $242 million, which was used to buy back company stock from Bain, Dade executives, and their banker, Goldman Sachs.
Bain was again extracting profits with borrowed money. It had pushed Dade’s debt to a bracing $2 billion. To help pay for the deal, the company laid off another 367 workers.
But that debt proved too much for Dade’s shoulders to carry. Three years later, the company was bankrupt.
Kosman calls it standard Romney operating procedure. To pump short-term earnings, he would essentially “starve a company,” whacking not just employees, but also customer-service and research-and-development funding—the ingredients of long-term prosperity.
“I think they’re one of the worst, at least during Romney’s time,” Kosman says. “They were very aggressive about dividends. They were very aggressive about borrowing the most money they could. He’s very driven to be the best he could be, and that was to be as cutthroat as he could be. But in the process, he hurt a lot of companies and cost a lot of jobs, maybe tens of thousands of jobs.”
Kosman says it’s telling that Romney never cites companies he actually managed as evidence of his job-building skills.
“If Romney had some stories to tell, he’d use those stories,” he says. “I think it’s very interesting that he’s not telling those stories because I think they don’t exist.”
The Welfare Queen
Romney’s economic views were on stark parade during this year’s Michigan primary. He ripped President Obama for bailing out the auto industry and argued that it should have been dealt with in his favorite resting place: bankruptcy court.
He was particularly incensed that the president rescued workers’ pension funds before covering Wall Street’s bad loans.
But his faith in the free market wobbles when his friends need rescuing. Romney just as vigorously defends the $10 billion government bailout of Goldman Sachs, his investment partner at Bain.
After all, Romney frequently assumed the role of welfare queen himself.
In 1988, he bought South Carolina photo-album maker Holson Burnes. In exchange for the firm’s promise to build a new factory, the people of Gaffney, South Carolina, gave Bain $5 million in bonds and $200,000 in utility upgrades.
The plant closed just four years later. The 100 jobs there were later shipped to Mexico.
At GSI, he dumped $44 million in pension shortfalls on the federal government. And when he bought mattress maker Sealy in 1997, he took $600,000 in welfare to move the firm from Ohio to North Carolina.
Even a company Romney cites as one of his greatest achievements—Steel Dynamics, where he was a minority investor—was practically launched by corporate welfare. Indiana taxpayers gave the firm $77 million to open a plant. Residents of DeKalb County actually had their income taxes raised solely to help Romney and his friends.
Tad DeHaven calls it “theft and redistribution.”
He’s no yammering Trotskyite; DeHaven is a former budget adviser to Republican U.S. senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Yet he notes that firms like Bain often get governments to subsidize their raiding parties.
The feds take $100 billion a year from everyday taxpayers and send it straight to companies like Romney’s, says DeHaven, who now works for the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank.
But like most good Republicans, he’s reticent to single out the candidate for criticism. “It depends on what he knew and Bain’s involvement in obtaining subsidies,” DeHaven says. “I don’t know if it makes him a hypocrite or not, but he should answer questions about it.”
The President of Russia
Those answers won’t be forthcoming. Romney refuses to discuss most of the companies he purchased at Bain, nor will he release his tax records from those years. As a result, voters are left to make their own call on his catalog of creative destruction—and what he might be like as president.
Romney has professed his admiration for Ronald Reagan. But judging by his business history, the president he most resembles is Vladimir Putin. Romney has devoted his life to ensuring that every last penny rises to a few hands at the top. And like Putin, he has never shown much concern for the countrymen he tramples along the way.
“The word ‘oligarchy’ comes to mind,” says Michael Keating when asked to envision a Romney presidency.
Keating is a former business consultant and executive at Bertelsmann, a multinational investment firm that operates in 63 countries. He asserts that men like Romney “hide their antisocial actions behind a rhetoric of free-market capitalist platitudes. But in the end, it’s all about the bottom line—and only their own bottom line . . .”
“I don’t think Romney is so much dangerous as he is unimaginative,” Keating adds. “And in the world we live in, that amounts to the same thing.”
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