2017 Mawhinney Lecture - Lunch Hour Lecture

Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 12:30 to 14:00

DLA Piper Hall, Allard Hall Room 104

Topic: Lessons from the Tax Shelter Wars:  Tax Advice, Organizational Wrongdoing, and Enforcement Challenges

The turn of the 21st Century saw the development of an enormous tax shelter industry in the United States.  Aided by prestigious law firms, tax professionals at major accounting firms - including KPMG, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers - created a widespread market in abusive shelters, which allowed corporate and individual taxpayers to eliminate billions of dollars in taxes owed.  As tax shelter activity proliferated, government authorities were faced with increasingly complex regulatory challenges and were ultimately forced to resort to criminal prosecutions to stem the tide of tax shelter activity.  Professor Rostain’s lecture focuses on the lessons to be drawn from the participation of major professional law firms in the rise of the tax shelter market, which represented the most serious episode of professional misconduct in the history of the American bar.

Speaker: Professor Tanina Rostain

Tanina Rostain is a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.  Professor Rostain’s work has focused on the ethical challenges that arise in corporate and tax practice, and in particular on the influence of organizational context on professional misconduct.  In 2014, Professor Rostain published Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Industry (MIT Press).  Co-authored with Professor Mitt Regan, Confidence Games examines the role of major accounting firms and corporate firms in the rise of the tax shelter industry at the turn of the century. More recently, Professor Rostain has turned to writing about legal technologies and access to justice.  Her current research explores whether functions traditionally played by lawyers can be assumed by digital self-help tools and other legal technologies.