In between runs for the presidency, Ross Perot spent the last four years railing against the “giant sucking sound” of U.S. jobs and U.S. dollars going overseas.
But at the same time he was making public denunciations, the Texas billionaire was sending some of his own money overseas, boosting his investments in foreign bonds and currency.
All of which raises the question: Is the feisty billionaire putting his money where his mouth is?
“This is the problem that Ross Perot has had in the past; he has said one thing and done another. That has raised some questions about his legitimacy as a candidate,” said Alexander Horniman, a professor of ethics at the University of Virginia. “This is almost the pot calling the kettle black.”
Perot’s 1996 personal financial-disclosure statement, filed this week with the Federal Election Commission, shows investments in German, Japanese, Australian, Canadian, French, Venezuelan, Greek, Italian and Spanish government bonds valued at more than $450 million - investments that were not listed in his 1992 disclosure.
It is impossible to determine Perot’s net worth from the financial disclosure statement, but Forbes magazine estimates it’s around $2.6 billion.
Steve Blasnik, an investment adviser at Perot Investments, a company that manages the Perot family fortune, said there was no incongruity between Perot’s political positions and his overseas holdings.
“I guess I just don’t see it,” Blasnik said. “It’s one thing to take your capital and use it to build a factory in Thailand, which we don’t do, and it’s a different thing to buy one German government bond versus selling another German government bond.”
Blasnik said most of the foreign investments were made by Petrus Securities, a subgroup of Perot Investments. Their mission is to buy up foreign government bonds that other investors are unloading at low prices, hold onto them until the price rises, then sell them off.
“Over the last four years, opportunities have been good in this area,” Blasnik said of Perot’s increased foreign investing. “So we’ve added more people, equipment and technology.”
Interestingly, one of the key reasons why European government bonds have been good for investors is also one of Perot’s favorite political enemies: government deficits.
“The European bond market is strong because the countries have weak growth, high unemployment and high fiscal deficits,” said Robert A. Brusca, chief economist with Nikko Securities Co. in New York. “The bond market hates prosperity.”
Despite the growth in foreign investing, Blasnik points out that the vast majority of Perot’s holdings are in U.S. companies, state and local governments, and U.S. Treasury bonds.
Blasnik added that “if we’re going to invest in building a business, the direction has always been, it should build a business here in the United States.”
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