Sidley Austin clients round on tax shelter ruling

More than 40 former Sidley Austin Brown & Wood clients are to appeal a ruling by a US federal judge last week, ordering the US firm to turn over clients’ names to the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) in relation to a tax shelter investigation.

In November 2003 a Senate subcommittee report revealed that legacy firm Brown & Wood had made US$15m for issuing standard opinion letters, backing the use of the potentially illegal tax shelters to more than 300 tax clients, at a cost of around $50,000 for each of the mass produced letters.

The combined firm was subsequently asked to hand over the names of all the clients but a group of 48 clients refused to give the firm permission to reveal their identities.

As a result the IRS served a summons on Sidley Austin to hand over the identity of the clients, and last week a federal court judge ruled that the firm should reveal the information.

However the intervening clients obtained an order staying the enforcement, thereby giving them a chance to appeal the decision. The group will now file an appeal, which is expected to be heard in about a month’s time.

In a prepared statement Sidley Austin said: “While the Court upheld the summons as we expected, and we will abide by the Court’s decision, the former clients who have objected will – given the stay – have an opportunity to offer their arguments to the court of appeals.”

The Brown & Wood partner who provided the advice, Raymond Ruble, has since been dismissed from the firm.