December 9, 2018

DLA Piper

BDO Not Thrilled with the Legal Advice It Got Re: Tax Shelters

BDO’s Tax Solutions Group was going gangbusters back in the late 90s and early aughts. Unfortunately, the party more or less ended in December 2000 when the IRS served notice to the firm that some of the products were not ingenious tax planning strategies but rather illegal tax shelters. The DOJ launched an enforcement action in 2002 and just last year BDO partners started pleading guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy and some other fun charges.

BDO isn’t crazy about shouldering all the shame and embarrassment so it has decided to sue the law firm Morgan Lewis for “professional negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and constructive fraud.” BDO alleges that ML’s breach amounted to “disastrous results” which is likely referring to the tax shelter shitshow. They just want their $9 million back that they paid in fees and call it a day (they’re saving up!).


Morgan Lewis finds this all very amusing, stating that they advised BDO only on minor issues. ML is represented by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher led by James Fogelman, who made his client’s position very clear:

Morgan Lewis called the lawsuit a “sham” and contended it only advised [BDO Partners] on a few minor questions — none of which involved the questionable tax products. “There was nothing that Morgan Lewis knew about to warn BDO concerning BDO’s own conduct. … There was nothing more BDO needed to know,” Fogelman wrote.

The only time Morgan Lewis opined on a tax product, the firm contends, was in February 2000, when BDO asked it to weigh in on a tax shelter dubbed the Sentinal Transaction. Morgan Lewis responded that the tax shelter was “unlikely” to expose BDO to criminal convictions. In its motion to dismiss, the firm said, “[I]t does not appear that anybody has ever been convicted of any federal crime based on the Sentinal Transaction.”

And Morgan Lewis doesn’t simply want to be vindicated in this matter, they want to be right AND they they would like BDO and DLA Piper (BDO’s counsel) to have sanctions slapped on their asses for lying through their teeth in their complaint. ML contends that they presented evidence disproving the allegations but BDO and DLA must have decided that a bitter fight would be more fun.

And it is.

BDO Seidman Seeks $9 Million in Fees Back From Morgan Lewis [The National Law Journal via Law.com]