One of the key political defenses former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has turned to throughout the years -- that he left Bain, the equity firm he founded, in 1999 and therefore should not be held accountable for what the company did thereafter -- has crumbled into dust thanks to the work of a couple of intrepid reporters from The Boston Globe, who learned that the company still listed him as CEO until 2002.

That defense has protected Romney time after time over the years when opponents hit him over his private equity firm's decisions to ship jobs overseas and shutter whole companies to make a profit. But no longer.

Appearing on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show on Thursday night, Globe reporter Christopher Rowland explained that the paper will not be retracting his story despite the Romney campaign's insistence that it was not accurate.

"The paper trail that they created over those three years really paints a totally different picture of Mitt Romney's involvement with the firm," he said. "If you look at the paperwork alone, it shows that he was the man in charge. That's a big, startling change from the way that they've described it over the years."

Rowland added: "They key is that he indeed did leave, he was in [Salt Lake City, running the Olympics]. So, to a certain extent, he's legally in charge. I don't think the Globe and other reporting is not saying that he was in the boardroom on a daily basis at Bain calling the shots. But certainly these records show that he was in charge, that he had legal responsibility. He was the man with oversight responsibility for the company."

Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer warned Thursday that if Bain was in fact misleading its investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission by claiming Romney was CEO when he really wasn't, both Bain and Romney could be in seriously hot water -- and possibly even guilty of criminal offenses.

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Thursday, July 12, 2012.

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