Paul L. Caron

Sunday, July 12, 2020

NY Times And National Tax Association Tributes To Ed Kleinbard

Following up on my previous posts:

New York Times (Jesse Drucker), Edward Kleinbard, Tax Lawyer Turned Reformer, Dies at 68:

Edward Kleinbard, a prominent tax lawyer who helped global corporations find creative ways to cut their taxes before he moved to academia and shined a light on the practices of the types of companies he had once advised, died on June 28 in Los Angeles. He was 68. ...

Mr. Kleinbard’s career cut an unusual arc. He spent more than 30 years as a corporate tax lawyer, helping companies and financial institutions on Wall Street and elsewhere cut their tax bills. He then devoted the last decade to the cause of raising taxes, as a means of combating inequality and poverty. As a member of the law school faculty at the University of Southern California, he used his insider’s expertise to show in particular how multinational companies avoid taxes.

Mr. Kleinbard began to publish a series of articles on the inequities in the tax system, especially how multinational corporations like Google, using techniques nicknamed “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich,” dodged billions of dollars in taxes by pushing profits into tax havens offshore.

He coined the term “Stateless Income” and titled an article on Starbucks’s tax avoidance “Through a Latte Darkly.” ..

Michael Schler, tax counsel at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, who had known Mr. Kleinbard since the 1970s, said of him in an interview: “He was one of the smartest tax lawyers around. Having been in private practice as a lawyer, he understood how big corporations are getting around and taking advantage of various tax rules. And by being in academia and by being a good writer, he was able to bring all that to the public’s attention.”

Mr. Kleinbard was known as a demanding boss and a perfectionist who required much of his colleagues — and of himself. He was sometimes described as a curmudgeon, but with a biting sense of humor, often delivered deadpan. ...

Mr. Kleinbard submitted to his publisher the manuscript for a book the day before he went into the hospital for surgery in March, said Leslie Samuels, a senior counsel at Cleary Gottlieb who had worked with Mr. Kleinbard there. The book, titled “What’s Luck Got to Do With It?,” explores the role luck plays — whether through inherited wealth, geography or racial heritage — in worsening inequality.

Mr. Samuels recalled how Mr. Kleinbard would roll his eyes at how many of his wealthy clients were oblivious to their good fortune. He recalled Mr. Kleinbard saying: “They’re not so smart — they are just lucky. I was lucky.”

National Tax Association (Kimberly Clausing (Reed College), moving to UCLA), Edward Kleinbard, In Memoriam:

Edward Kleinbard was a giant in the field of tax policy. He was a treasured colleague and mentor, an ever-stalwart interlocutor, and a brilliant commentator on the most relevant issues in his field.

Kleinbard studied history at Brown University before receiving his law degree from Yale in 1976. He had an eye for detail and close textual reading, and he always appreciated the intellectual side of his endeavors. For more than twenty years, Kleinbard practiced law, becoming a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in 1985. In 2007, he left practice to become the chief of staff at the U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation, where he served until 2009. In 2009, he joined the faculty at the USC Gould School of Law; he was the Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair of Law at the time of his passing. It is a very rare person who can achieve the pinnacle of success in the private sector, the government, and in academia, and Kleinbard was deeply respected in all of these settings. ...

Kleinbard was a renowned commentator on the tax issues of the day, and he could always be relied upon for patient explanation, encyclopedic knowledge, passionate viewpoints, and the zinging quotes that made so many journalists’ stories more colorful. While he didn’t suffer fools, he also showed great patience and boundless intellectual curiosity in any exchange. ...

n his final year of life, perhaps fittingly, Kleinbard devoted himself to a book on the role of luck in economic outcomes. ... An early chapter of this book opens with the metaphor of a bike ride. Kleinbard notes that a tailwind makes the cyclist feel triumphant and speedy, although the cyclist seldom remembers the wind at their back. A headwind, on the other hand, imperils the cyclist’s progress and makes the journey far more difficult. This illustration is both an apt reflection on the role of existential luck, and a reminder to all of us that losing Ed will remove wind from our backs. No doubt, he would urge us to pedal harder, much as he would have done. For this, and for all of his contributions, we are very grateful.

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