Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Clinton invested in Cayman tax haven companies

Even tax havens get "two for the price of one"...
On a more serious note, the article quotes several experts explaining the futility of pretending to save on U.S. taxes by investing offshore.

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Clinton's Burkle Ties Include Funds in Cayman Islands
(Update1)


By Timothy J. Burger and Ryan J. Donmoyer
Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Former President Bill Clinton's decision to reconsider a business relationship with California billionaire Ron Burkle reflects concern those financial dealings may embarrass his wife's presidential candidacy.
Securities and Exchange Commission documents and financial- disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton show that Bill Clinton, 61, has a financial stake in three investment entities registered in the Cayman Islands by Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. LLC.
In 2004, Hillary Clinton, a New York senator, said she wanted to close the ``loopholes'' for ``people who create a mailbox, or a drop, or send one person to sit on the beach in some island paradise and claim that it is their offshore headquarters.''

The former president's possible decision to move away from Burkle ``is all tied up with the laws of appearance and the politics of perception,'' said Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. ``The world being what it is, people are attracted to the spouse of somebody with political power. The level of potential conflict is just that much higher with a former president and a senator who would be president.''
Moreover, added Fowler, ``with this particular couple, somehow, the whole story doesn't come out except in dribs and drabs.''
Bloomberg News last month submitted a list of questions to the Clinton campaign regarding the former president's involvement in the three Caymans-based funds. The campaign didn't respond to the queries until Dec. 13, after the New York Times reported that Clinton plans to dissolve his five-year partnership with Burkle, a longtime friend and important fund-raiser for both Clintons.
`An Appropriate Transition'
Jay Carson, a Clinton spokesman, said that while the former president hasn't ``severed ties'' with Yucaipa, he ``is taking steps to ensure'' that ``there will be an appropriate transition for those relationships'' if his wife receives the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Carson, in an e-mail, said the funds are designed for foreign investors. ``All three of these entities (which are related) are organized in the Cayman Islands so that each investor or partner pays the taxes they would owe in their home country,'' he said. ``For U.S. citizens like Bill Clinton, that means he pays U.S. taxes on his income from this fund, which he does.''
Disclosures
The disclosures that Hillary Clinton, 60, is required to make as a lawmaker and candidate show that her husband has holdings in three Burkle-controlled funds -- YGOF GP Ltd., Yucaipa Global Holdings and Yucaipa Global Partnership Fund LP -- all listed at Yucaipa's Los Angeles address. An October filing with the SEC by Burkle, Yucaipa's lead partner, names YGOF as a Cayman Islands corporation and the latter two as Cayman Islands partnerships.
The amounts disclosed by Hillary Clinton are minimal, though a person familiar with the matter confirmed a report last year in The New York Times that Bill Clinton stands to make tens of millions of dollars with little risk if the Yucaipa funds he is involved in profit beyond a certain level.
Forbes Magazine listed Burkle, 55, as the 91st richest American this year, with a net worth of $3.5 billion.
`More Attractive'
Paul Roth, an attorney with Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York, said companies that organize outside the U.S. often do so because ``it's more attractive'' to foreign investors, who can ``make sure they're not subject to U.S. taxation.'' Foreign registration may also make it easier for U.S. tax-exempt entities such as pension funds to invest ``in certain strategies,'' he said.
These tax benefits -- which are legal and common practice for many investment firms, particularly hedge funds -- have drawn attention from lawmakers and candidates.
In a Dec. 13 debate, Hillary Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, said that as president he would crack down on corporate loopholes and tax savings, particularly those involving offshore transactions.
``There's a building in the Cayman Islands that houses, supposedly, 12,000 U.S.-based corporations,'' Obama said. ``That's either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world. And I think we know which one it is.''
Not Deferred
Roth said U.S. law makes it difficult for Americans to avoid taxes on payments from offshore, though some hedge-fund managers use such entities to defer U.S. taxes on their compensation. A measure passed last week by the House would ban this practice. Obama, 46, was a Senate co-sponsor of the provision when it was introduced in February.
Carson said Bill Clinton's payments from Yucaipa aren't deferred and the former president pays tax on that income in the year in which it is earned.
Steven Howard, a partner at Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP in New York who advises investment firms, said private-equity firms such as Yucaipa often compensate advisers with a stake in the company rather than salary. ``In Clinton's case, he may be allocated equity instead of significant cash for services rendered,'' Howard said.
Carson didn't respond to questions about whether Bill Clinton receives this form of compensation. Howard said equity allocations are taxed at the 15 percent capital-gains rate instead of as ordinary income, which is taxed at rates as high as 35 percent. He said the same benefit applies to so-called carried interest, a profit-sharing arrangement used by fund managers that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have criticized and vow to curb.
Difficult to Assess
The realized value of Clinton's holdings in Yucaipa hasn't been disclosed and such stakes are typically difficult to assess until they are disbursed. Funds such as Yucaipa are privately held and aren't normally required to disclose details to regulators.
Hillary Clinton's Senate financial-disclosure records only say that Bill Clinton's Yucaipa assets were valued at less than $2,002 in 2006, while he received between $1,202 and $3,500 in interest that year. In the 18 months between January 2006 and June 2007, the value of the assets grew to between $1,001 and $15,000, and Bill Clinton received between $6,002 and $17,500 in interest, according to financial records filed in connection with the senator's presidential candidacy.
Bill Clinton has also received ``over $1,000'' a year in ``guaranteed payments to partner'' from Yucaipa Global Holdings and a predecessor fund. The government forms don't require lawmakers to specify an exact amount for spouses.
Campaign Questions
Bloomberg's questions to the campaign involved the nature and amounts of his compensation from Yucaipa, why the holdings were listed as Los Angeles-based rather than Cayman Islands entities, and when Hillary Clinton became aware that the funds were offshore. Carson didn't address those questions. Yucaipa spokesman Frank Quintero referred all questions about the former president's role to the Clintons' spokespeople.
Bill Clinton's ties to Yucaipa have sparked controversy over the past year, including a September report in the Wall Street Journal that detailed how one of the former president's aides had helped arrange a partnership with Burkle that dissolved amid litigation over allegations of misused funds.
Fortress
The former president isn't the only person in the campaign with links to funds in the Cayman Islands. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, was a senior adviser to Fortress Investment Group Inc., a New York-based private-equity and hedge-fund manager, and reported at least one asset, the Investments Fund III (Fund D) LP, that was incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2004.
Edwards, who was the first candidate to criticize tax preferences for the private-equity industry, also pays taxes as if the money was earned in the U.S., spokesman Eric Schultz told the Washington Post in May. Schultz said Edwards, 54, ``believes offshore tax shelters are wrong'' and ``will end them'' if elected. The Edwards campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment today.
Separately, the Los Angeles Times reported today that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate, used shell companies in at least two offshore havens while running Bain Capital LLC, the Boston-based private-equity firm. Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told the Times there was nothing improper about the registration of funds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and that Romney didn't defer or avoid paying U.S. taxes. Madden didn't immediately respond to calls seeking comment today.
When he left the White House in 2000, Bill Clinton reported assets of more than $1 million and legal fees of more than $2.4 million. In his wife's most recent disclosure, Hillary Clinton reported that the couple now has a net worth estimated at between $17.4 million and $53.7 million.
Both now claim to be uneasy about their place among the richest Americans. This ``new experience,'' Hillary Clinton said during a debate Oct. 30, isn't ``one that makes us very comfortable.''
To contact the reporters on this story: Timothy J. Burger in Washington at mailto:Tburger2@; Ryan J. Donmoyer in Washington at mailto:rdonmoyer@. Last Updated: December 17, 2007 10:45 EST



Full text in: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&sid=aiQEVoQ5nt5E&refer=home

4 comments:

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Richard Thompson said...

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