TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Report: Hackers Stole Mitt Romney's Tax Returns From PwC, Demand Ransom Payment

(Hat Tip: Bob Kamman.)

Update #1Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee):

UPDATE: In the comments, a suggestion that this is just a cover story: “As many observers have noted, there’s little question the Obama campaign has Romney’s tax returns. That’s illegal, though -- they had to have been obtained from the government, which indeed is Nixon territory -- so there will have to be some cover story when they are inevitably leaked prior to the election. The Reid nonsense was a start, maybe this is the vehicle.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Quite a few commenters with tax experience say this is bogus. But reader Mark Jones writes:

It’s not just that the so-called hackers could provide cover for releasing Romney’s tax returns obtained (illegally) by the Obama administration. It’s that they could release PHONY returns showing blatantly illegal or unethical actions on Romney’s part and then, when Romney protests, demand that he prove it by releasing the real returns. The “hackers” provide plausible deniability on two levels: First, “We thought they were the real thing”, and second, “Of course we didn’t obtain his records unlawfully. We didn’t even get the real thing!”

Update #2Kay Bell (Don't Mess With Taxes):

I think it's a hoax because:

  1. The ransom amount is pretty low given the information allegedly stolen. Romney is astoundingly rich and the donors who support him are no slouches in the wealth department either. If the candidate's tax returns were stolen they probably would be happy to pony up much, much more to keep them private.
  2. The deadline is too far down the line. Not that I'm a cybercriminal, but if I had the info, I'd give them a day or two to come up with the money. Giving them three and a half weeks to investigate seems to be asking to be caught. I would get in, get the data, get the money and then get out!

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This is not a surprise... Take something of value from a person with a lot of money and you can make a fortune. I'm sure Romney is going to pay the ransom if it will help win the election.

Posted by: Barbara Cruz | Sep 6, 2012 7:42:34 AM

How crazy. It's not like Obama's Chicago operatives would ever do anything underhanded to Obama's political opponents so that Obama could cruise to victory. Right?

Obama, highly experienced in the art of disqualifying his opponents; 1996 state senate bid

While running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996, Obama, who had no record to run on, invalidated the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers [because of mere technicalities], which enabled him to run unopposed and to cruise to victory. Chicago Tribune columnist, John Kass, noted about Obama's 1996 tactic: "That was Chicago politics. Knock out your opposition, challenge their petitions, destroy your enemy, right?... In that first race, [Obama] made sure voters had just one choice"....

Obama’s signature move: Unsealing private records

Obama’s usual campaign method, used in 100 percent of his races, has been to pry into the private records of his opponents. ... So you can see what a pickle the Obama campaign is in having to run against a Dudley Do-Right, non-drinking, non-smoking, God-fearing, happily married Mormon. They’ve got to get their hands on thousands of pages of Romney’s tax filings so that the media can — as Romney says — lie about them. It will be interesting to see if Obama can pick the lock of the famously guarded IRS.

Anticipate the "Journalists for Obama" position: "Watergate burglary into DNC HQ bad. Theft of Republican candidate's tax returns good." Nixon never had it as good as Obama, and Nixon doesn't hold a candle to Obama.

Keep moving. Nothing to see here.

Posted by: Woody | Sep 6, 2012 9:07:39 AM

Surely at any moment Obama will convene a press conference and, in the interest of justice and fair play, announce that he has directed the FBI to hunt down and apprehend the perpetrators of this heinous deed, so as to dispel undue public speculation about Romney's private and confidential tax returns. And the Easter Bunny will be at Obama's side . . . .

Posted by: Jake | Sep 6, 2012 7:04:46 PM

The hackers' story is obviously a hoax as anyone from the Big4 could confirm. This is just a distraction. I'm embarrassed the story is being given any credibility at all. It reflects poorly on people who keep reposting this foolishness and stoking paranoid right-wing fantasies.

Posted by: Obvious Hoax | Sep 7, 2012 6:16:04 AM

I'm thinking this is a hoax. I doubt Romney did anything illegal and his tax returns probably show only legal tax avoidance. Just like the 2010 return he released:
And his "estimated" 2011 return:

Posted by: Paul | Sep 7, 2012 9:01:50 AM

What is he hiding Omg. If this goes away I will know he paid them off. Why isn't this all in the news.

Posted by: Debra Branch | Sep 7, 2012 1:20:53 PM

Woody's aluminum foil hat is picking up interference from his teeth fillings. Woody, may I suggest two layers of aluminum foil, with a latex sandwich? That may cut down on the interference and allow better reception from the Mother Ship.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Sep 11, 2012 7:16:45 AM