Saturday, May 8, 2021

Robert F. Smith: Billionaire Who Promised to Pay Off Students’ Debt Under Federal Investigation

*Uh oh. It looks like billionaire Robert F. Smith has caught the attention of the feds who are looking at him for potential tax crimes according to a report from Bloomberg.

Smith, by the way, made headlines last year when he committed to paying off the student debt of the entire Morehouse College 2019 graduating class.

Here’s the bottom line.  Smith is facing an investigation into potential tax crimes that involves hundreds of millions of dollars. He’s said to have been under investigation since at least 2016 which obviously covers the period in which he did that huge favor for the students of Morehouse, his alma mater.

The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service are trying to determine whether Smith, 57, failed to pay American taxes on roughly $200 million in assets that flowed through “offshore structures,” the Bloomberg report says, citing people familiar with the matter.

Smith — the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Vista Equity Partners — is trying to resolve the probe with a civil settlement instead of criminal charges. But if he’s charged and ultimately convicted, he could face prison time and have to cut ties with Vista, which has $65 billion in assets, according to the story.

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Robert F Smith - Getty-5ce2c96c021b4c189e3d5268
Robert F. Smith – Getty

Here’s more via Bloomberg:

U.S. citizens are required to pay taxes on income anywhere in the world. When the IRS catches mistakes on a return, taxpayers generally rectify the problem and reach a civil settlement. Prosecutors can bring criminal cases, however, against those who willfully fail to pay taxes or fail to declare their foreign assets.

Sources also made claims that Mr. Smith has been chatting with prosecutors to possibly get leniency for his cooperation.

Recently, Smith has talked to prosecutors about possibly cooperating with their investigations in exchange for leniency, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

That’s because prosecutors are building what may be a larger tax case against a Smith associate — Robert T. Brockman, a Houston businessman — according to Bermuda court records and people familiar with the matter. The Brockman investigation was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, though the inquiry into Smith hasn’t been disclosed previously. The two men’s business connections involve a jumble of offshore entities, trusts and foundations, much of it opaque to anyone without subpoena power.

You can read the full investigative piece at Bloomberg.

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