Edward Kleinbard, Tax Lawyer Turned Reformer, Dies at 68

Edward Kleinbard, a prominent tax lawyer who helped global corporations find creative ways to cut their taxes before he moved to academia and shined a light on the practices of the types of companies he had once advised, died on June 28 in Los Angeles. He was 68.

He had been treated for cancer for several years, a brother-in-law, Kris Heinzelman, said in confirming the death, at Keck Hospital of USC.

Mr. Kleinbard’s career cut an unusual arc. He spent more than 30 years as a corporate tax lawyer, helping companies and financial institutions on Wall Street and elsewhere cut their tax bills. He then devoted the last decade to the cause of raising taxes, as a means of combating inequality and poverty. As a member of the law school faculty at the University of Southern California, he used his insider’s expertise to show in particular how multinational companies avoid taxes.

Mr. Kleinbard published a series of articles on the inequities in the tax system, especially how multinational corporations like Google, using techniques nicknamed “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich,” dodged billions of dollars in taxes by pushing profits into tax havens offshore.

Michael L. Schler, tax counsel at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, who had known Mr. Kleinbard since the 1970s, said of him in an interview: “He was one of the smartest tax lawyers around. Having been in private practice as a lawyer, he understood how big corporations are getting around and taking advantage of various tax rules. And by being in academia and by being a good writer, he was able to bring all that to the public’s attention.”

Mr. Kleinbard was known as a demanding boss and a perfectionist who required much of his colleagues — and of himself. He was sometimes described as a curmudgeon, but with a biting sense of humor, often delivered deadpan.

In one 2016 email exchange with this reporter, he asked for help in publicizing a TEDx talk he had given on poverty and inequality.

“Kendall Jenner’s latest YouTube contribution has 4.5 million hits,” he wrote, “and I am trying to catch up.”

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