SALEM, N.H. -- Inside the Wonder Years Learning Center yesterday, retired General Wesley K. Clark got hugs and crayon drawings. Outside, he answered questions on whether he knew the investment firm he once worked for held Tyco stock.
The issue came up for the Democratic presidential candidate this week after he proposed closing the tax loophole that allowed Tyco International Inc. to move its headquarters to Bermuda and avoid paying millions of dollars in federal tax.
Last fall, Clark was managing director of merchant banking for the Stephens Group Inc. of Little Rock, Ark., when the company bought more than 50,000 shares of Tyco stock. Stephens then bought another 25,000 shares early this year, The Telegraph of Nashua reported in yesterday's edition.
"It's a family-owned company; they make their own investment decisions. It's family money. I have nothing to do with that. I was learning the business from them and trying to do my part to help that company and help other companies," he said of his time with the investment firm.
Clark said he didn't know until yesterday that the Stephens Group owned Tyco stock.
After a 35-year career in the Army, Clark joined the Stephens company as a consultant in July 2000.
"I was going to be helping with defense mergers and acquisitions," he said of his role.
Clark left Stephens at the end of February to form his own consulting company.
Clark said Tyco and other corporate scandals have been a stain on American business. Two top Tyco executives are on trial, accused of stealing $600 million from the company. They allegedly spent the money on luxurious homes and furnishings, yachts, jewelry and lavish parties.
"One of the things that this country was built on was a strong sense of integrity and credibility in the business community. People believe in our markets; they believe in our honesty," he said. "I think it's the foremost duty of elected leaders and appointed leaders in this country to maintain that integrity."
Clark spent much of the morning shaking pint-sized hands, exchanging high-fives and talking about topics like worms, jungle gyms, and favorite stories with students in a kindergarten class.