Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Much Fraud Counts as a "Limited Number"?

Posted by Neil H. Buchanan

In "UBS Finds Limited Tax Fraud Involving Wealthy Americans," Julia Werdigier of The New York Times reports that "UBS has discovered only a small number of tax-fraud cases as part of an investigation into whether the Swiss bank helped clients dodge American taxes, the bank’s chairman, Peter Kurer, said Thursday."  The actual quote from Mr. Kurer, however, says only that "[o]ur investigations have uncovered a limited number of cases of tax fraud under both U.S. and Swiss law."  Later in the article, Ms Wedigier writes:

The United States Justice Department has argued that UBS, a huge bank based in Zurich that has extensive operations in the United States, helped as many as 17,000 of its American clients evade $300 million a year in taxes through hidden offshore accounts. Mr. Kurer’s remarks contained no specifics about whether he disputed the American estimate, nor did he clarify what number of fraud cases he would regard as “limited.”

A bank chairman describes his internal investigation's results in vague terms that could mean anything, and this is translated by the reporter as "only a small number of tax-fraud cases" and put on the first page of the Business section.  Cynicism, sloppiness, or naivete?

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"You cannot hope to bribe or twist
A New York business journalist.
And seeing what the Times will do
Unbribed, there is no reason to."

(w/ apol. to H. Wolfe)

Posted by: Gwailo | Nov 30, 2008 2:14:02 PM

Clearly, at least in this context, "limited" means "not infinite." And who can argue with that?

Posted by: Sarah L. | Nov 30, 2008 7:48:27 AM