Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 6, 2020

WSJ: Tax Lawyer Ed Kleinbard Reinvented Himself As A Crusading Professor

Following up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal (James Hagerty), Tax Lawyer Reinvented Himself as a Crusading Professor (July 4, 2020):

Traveling through Europe as a boy in the 1960s, Edward Kleinbard cultivated a precocious interest in medieval history and instructed his parents on which “shabby abbeys” they should appreciate.

The young scholar later aspired to become a history professor. His father, Martin Kleinbard, a partner at the law firm of Paul Weiss, cautioned that academic pay might not allow him to indulge expensive tastes in bicycles and travel. So Edward Kleinbard enrolled in law school at Yale.

Those studies launched him into a 30-year career as a prominent Wall Street tax lawyer at the law firm Cleary Gottlieb. Mr. Kleinbard finally entered academia as a law professor at the University of Southern California in 2009. The delay in launching his academic career was “just long enough for me to have something useful to say,” he wrote. ...

Mr. Kleinbard died June 28 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 68 years old and had been under treatment for cancer. Shortly before his death, he completed another book—What’s Luck Got to Do With It?—due to be published [by Oxford University Press] in 2021. ...

Writing essays and scholarly articles at a prodigious rate, he managed his time carefully. Friends said he sometimes walked out of dinner parties to escape bores. A tough customer, he sometimes insisted on inspecting several rooms in a hotel before settling on one that met his standards. He once complained to a hotel employee that a footstool was missing from his room and suggested that its replacement should come with a coffee stain matching the one on the easy chair. ...

New York Times obituary, Edward Kleinbard (July 1, 2020):

Always witty, pithy and never far separated from a microphone, Edward was regularly quoted on tax and fiscal policy issues by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other news outlets. ...

Edward is survived by his mother Joan, by his wife of 35 years, Norma Cirincione, by his beloved son Martin and daughter-in-law Andrea, by his granddaughter Vivian, by his brother David and sister-in-law Anna, by his sister Kathy Heinzelman and brother-in-law Kris, and by his devoted partner Suzanne Greenberg.

Dan Shaviro (NYU), Another, Much Briefer, Ed Kleinbard Tribute:

Ed was a great personal friend, but today I want to emphasize the professional side.

He became the most respected and admired practicing tax lawyer in America — but that wasn’t enough for him. He saw how much of the tax law is arbitrary and formalistic. But instead of concluding “Ah, it’s just a game,” he decided to change his career at age 55, which is incredibly brave, and not at all easy. It brings to mind Michael Jordan going to play baseball, except Ed succeeded.

He combined an incredible understanding of capital income taxation, including its international components, with a zeal for doing good in the world, through the use of logic and rigor. He was brilliant and boundlessly energetic, and made a number of major contributions. Just to name two: his work in bringing “stateless income” to wide public attention. And, his grossly under-appreciated work on the business enterprise income tax or BEIT, paired with dual income taxation.

He also has a book coming out next year with the Oxford University Press, called What’s Luck Got to Do With It? It’s about fairness, opportunity, and the importance of luck, but of course with a specific policy focus as well. I and others aim to make sure that it does come out as scheduled, although, given the projected publication date, it may not yet have been copy-edited.

As a mutual lawyer friend noted to me yesterday, Ed “didn’t suffer fools and mountebanks well.” Of course, you didn’t have to be one to get into a policy argument with him! (As a number of our mutual academic friends can testify.)

He also does not seem to have liked it when people’s work was sloppy or careless. This reflected his belief that people should care about doing things well.

We can all learn from Ed — certainly I can — that what we’re doing in tax scholarship isn’t just art for art’s sake, although that matters too, but is also moral, both because it affects people and because it’s right to try to do things well, not poorly.

I’ll miss him, and so will our field.

UpdateNY Times And National Tax Association Honor Ed Kleinbard

Obituaries, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink