Paul L. Caron

Monday, October 10, 2016

Trump's Accountant/Lawyer Committed 'Grievous' Violation Of Legal And Professional Ethics In Discussing His Tax Returns With Media

Following up on Saturday's post, Trump’s Ex-Accountant Jack Mitnick: He’s No Tax Genius:  National Review, Confidentially Yours:  Even a Scoundrel Like Trump Deserves Ethical Legal Representation:

Is there anyone concerned at the ugly turn the election has taken with the release of a few pages of Donald Trump's taxes from 1995? The ugliness is not that Trump's taxes have been revealed, per se, but that it was done, in part it appears, by getting an elderly lawyer to violate his duty of confidentiality to his client. One might say that Trump deserves what he gets. But in this age of ever-eroding privacy, it is alarming when the official rules meant to guard privacy come under assault. ...

Mr. Mitnick has committed a grievous violation of legal and professional ethics.

The rules are as expansive as they are simple. George Mason University law professor Terrence Chorvat tells The Weekly Standard that, while he is not privvy to "all the facts involved in the situation... attorneys should not be discussing work they performed for a client with newspapers."

The duty of confidentiality is like its sister rule, the lawyer-client privilege, says NYU law professor Stephen Gillers: Both rules "last forever, even after the death of the client." ... Mr. Mitnick [would] be in the wrong giving up information about Donald Trump's taxes. ...

Cindy Hockenberry is director of education and research at the National Association of Tax Professionals. She's astonished that any tax attorney would discuss in any way a client's returns, even something as pedestrian and widely known as a client's address. There's the association's Code of Ethics, which requires "I will observe the client's right to privacy and confidentiality," but beyond that there are federal statutes involved—among them, 26 U.S. Code, Section 7216, which makes it a misdemeanor for anyone in the business of preparing taxes returns to disclose "any information furnished to him for, or in connection with, the preparation of any such return."

There are also state laws involving lawyers' obligations of confidentiality, most of which track the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Responsibility, Rule 1.6, on the "Confidentiality of Information." ...

There could be a question of whether Mr. Mitnick was acting as a lawyer or as an accountant in the work on Trump's taxes. But Guinevere Moore, a partner practicing tax law at Johnson/Moore in Chicago, tells The Weekly Standard that the web of rules involving tax professionals means that accountants and preparers have the same sort of confidentiality requirements that attorneys do in the practice of law.

Political News, Tax | Permalink


The article above and the posts are all are based on assumption, not fact.

Mitnick, who is both a CPA and a lawyer, may have had his client’s permission to say what he did to me both on the phone in June (about badges of fraud on Trump’s 1984 income tax returns), when I interviewed him on national television this month and when he spoke recently to my former colleague David Barstow and others.

Having covered Trump for 28 years – my latest bestseller is The Making of Donald Trump – I know that Trump is often the source of leaks about himself, including one’s that people may assume are damaging. He has a long and thoroughly documented history of this as I show in my book.

Trump has even created imaginary PR aides to put out information about his imaginary lovers.

Posted by: David Cay Johnston | Oct 16, 2016 3:08:17 AM

I thought Mitnick was an accountant, not a lawyer?

Posted by: Mark Siegal | Oct 11, 2016 8:15:26 AM

Nonpayment doesn't work for CPAs. You're supposed to keep your mouth shut regardless.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Oct 11, 2016 7:40:30 AM

If a client doesn't pay the lawyer, the lawyer is someahat relieved.

Posted by: John Rooney | Oct 11, 2016 5:31:52 AM

I often wondered why old/terminal people don't just go out and start killing or robbing people. I mean, why not? If you get convicted, there's very little downside. And you could always make up a medical condition or something. The same goes for refugees or other immigrants about to be returned to their country of origin. Why not take out (or rob) a few gringos the day before you're deported? (Of course, don't get caught!)

I guess my point is that Mitnick should be congratulated for being a rational criminal.

Trump 2016

Posted by: Anon | Oct 10, 2016 2:19:46 PM

Ethics sanctions? He's 80 years old, he doesn't care.
Legal sanctions? Penalty for violation of section 7216 is $1000 and/or 1 yr. If DOJ could possibly find a jury to convict, do you think any judge would go with prison sentence in this case? Getting old sucks, but age does have its privileges.

Posted by: tuphat | Oct 10, 2016 5:59:46 AM