Mitt Romney's testimony in a decades-old divorce case was at the centre of a fresh bout of electoral mudslinging yesterday, after a judge ordered a previously sealed transcript of his contribution to the trial to be released to the media.

The Boston Globe persuaded a Massachusetts court to release copies of disputed evidence the Republican candidate gave during litigation between a friend and business associate, Tom Stemberg, and Stemberg's ex-wife, Maureen.

Stemberg founded the stationery chain Staples with the help of Romney's private equity firm, Bain Capital, during the 1980s. When a divorce court attempted to establish his net worth, Romney was called upon to testify on the value of the retail company.

He is believed to have told the court that Staples shares, which at the time were trading for a little over US$2, were "overvalued" and suggested the company was in difficult financial straits. When the divorce was finalised in 1988, Maureen Stemberg was given 500,000 shares in the firm, and quickly sold half of them.


Months later, Staples went public in a move that pushed the value of its shares to US$19. Maureen Stemberg promptly sued her ex-husband, alleging she had been encouraged to offload her stock for less than its true value. Litigation dragged on until 2002.

Lawyers for the Boston Globe recently requested a transcript of Romney's original evidence. His lawyers did not object and have insisted that "tabloid charges" suggesting their client lied under oath are "absolutely false".