NY Times: Jeb Bush’s wealth building strategy could be problematic in 2016 White House bid

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Seven years ago, Jeb Bush left public office with a net worth of about $1.3 million, and a clear determination to expand his wealth.

However, the former governor, in a quest to expand his resume, found himself in situations that may come back to haunt him, should Bush decide to run for the White House in 2016.

One such situation, reports Michael Barbaro of the New York Times, was to establish credibility for Miami building material startup InnoVida. Bush became a consultant and a member of the board of directors in 2007.

Bush’s tenure did not last long. InnoVida went bankrupt in 2011, after the company’s leader lied about the business health, faked documents and misappropriated nearly $40 million in company funds. Investors lost all of their money and company founder Claudio Osorio was jailed.

According to records and interviews, Bush was also involved in the last-minute efforts to promote Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street giant struggling under the weight of massive toxic mortgage securities. As a salaried adviser to the company, Bush met with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú in the summer of 2008, as part of an attempt to convince Slim to make a substantial investment in Lehman.

Another association, one that could prove problematic with conservatives, Bush acted as a director of Tenet Health Care, a massive hospital organization fully supporting the Affordable Care Act by strongly encouraging Americans to sign up for Obamacare.

Although it is common for former politicians of both parties to aggregate wealth after public office, Bush’s aim of making money was particularly aggressive, Barbaro writes.

In his efforts, Bush left few sectors of the U.S. economy unexplored. He worked on Wall Street, started a consulting firm, invested in real estate, advising a company specializing on disaster preparedness, serving on the board of a company providing hospital linens, and gave a long list of speeches to everything from the grocery industry and local chambers of commerce to health care conferences.

For the most part, Bush’s strategy has paid off, earning him at least $3.2 million in stock grants and board fees from publicly traded companies.

Corporate speechmaking is even more rewarding; Bush commands around $50,000 per speech, and he delivered more than 100 leaving, with only a few unpaid. And as a consultant to Lehman Brothers and Barclays, which bought most of the failing company, Bush earns $1 million a year.

Aides say that Bush carefully chooses a company before lending his name and support. As for the involvement with InnoVida, he performed a background check on Osorio. Other than a bankruptcy of a previous company, there was nothing to suggest misconduct. Based on that, Mr. Bush agreed to help promote the advanced technology, a construction process requiring no cement, steel or wood.

There is no evidence that bush or any other board members were aware of Osorio’s lying. Board Member Christopher Korge, an InnoVida investor and significant Democratic Party donor, told the Times he recalled talking to Bush about his frustrations with the company’s delays in issuing financial information and unwillingness to conduct regular board meetings.

Korge said that once Bush was aware of the problems in InnoVida, he acted “swiftly and forcibly” to investigate.

“Jeb did everything that he should have done to protect the shareholder,” Korge said.

Even though Bush is an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act, calling it “flawed to its core,” he has earned more than $2 million on the board of Tenet, which powerfully endorses the legislation. But at company meetings, Bush made his objections clear, according to Trevor Fetter, Tenet’s chief executive, adding that Bush understood the difference between “personal views and what is best for the company.”

Fetter predicts that the Affordable Care Act will provide as much as $100 million in additional earnings for Tenet in 2014.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.