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  1. Tax controversy
  2. Leading lawyers

Leading lawyers

Baker & McKenzie’s tax controversy practice has established a market-leading expertise in international transfer pricing. The highly regarded Thomas Linguanti, former trial and appellate attorney with the US Department of Justice in the tax division, heads the Chicago-based tax controversy practice. The group comprises over 50 lawyers across nine North American offices, with concentrations in Chicago, Palo Alto and Washington DC. The firm’s tax litigators are both skilled trial lawyers and tax attorneys, additionally supported by the expertise of several economists. The firm has recently represented a number of large corporate clients in IRS audits and appeals in substantial transfer pricing matters, including cost sharing buy-in and manufacturing issues, and cross-border transactions. Representative clients include Mattel, General Electric, Capital Corporation, APL, BP America, Medtronic, and Thomson Reuters. George Clarke recently rejoined the Washington DC’s practice from Miller & Chevalier Chartered. Jaclyn Pampel and Patricia Rexford, both in Chicago, are also recommended.

Washington DC-based William Nelson and Boston-based Donald Abram co-chair the growing and strong international tax controversy practice at Bingham McCutchen LLP, with a ‘terrific new generation of lawyers’. The team has gained a reputation for its expertise and broad transfer pricing practice, which covers planning, including up-front risk assessments of proposed transactions, to advance pricing agreements (APA), competent authority proceedings, IRS audits and appeals and litigation in all federal courts. The firm clients from the technology, consumer products, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and financial services industry, such as Dow Chemical Company and Branch Bank & Trust Company (BB&T). Raj Madan, Chris Bowers and John Magee are currently litigating a $430m landmark case involving, what the IRS has termed, "foreign tax credit generators" for Santander Holdings USA.

Led by Joel Williamson in Chicago and Larry Langdon in Palo Alto, Mayer Brown’s Chicago-based controversy practice, also has a presence in New York, Washington DC, Houston and Palo Alto. The firm is recognized for its strong international transfer pricing expertise. Clients include Flextronic International, PEPCO Holdings, Tyco International (US), and Union Bank of California. The practice is representing Tyco International before the Appeals Division of the IRS regarding a proposed income adjustment to the client’s $1bn federal income tax returns. David Abbott in New York is also recommended. Shawn O’Brien joined the Houston office from Jackson Walker, L.L.P., and Nicole Reuling departed to go in-house.

Washington DC-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s tax controversy practice is co-chaired by Fred Goldberg and Kenneth Gideon, former assistant secretaries of the Treasury for tax policy, and former chief counsels for the IRS. The practice focus on representing corporations, partnerships, estates, individuals and governmental entities in high-stakes and complex tax controversy matters against the IRS. The firm also advises on international, US and cross-border transactions, including acquisitions, spin-offs, transfer pricing, dispositions, joint ventures, bankruptcy restructurings and financings. The West Coast tax practice has recently established a full service with the addition of Julia Kazaks and Emily Lam from the Washington DC office, offering specialist transfer pricing advice for its Silicon Valley technology clients. The firm represented The Bank of New York Mellon, CIGNA, and Wells Fargo, as well as several high-net-worth individuals in connection with confidential examinations by the IRS, and several US financial institutions against the IRS. Alan Swirski and John Williams are also recommended.

Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Martin’s practice is spread across offices in Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Antonio, and is headed by George Connelly in Houston. With almost half of its attorneys dedicated to tax controversy, the firm is comparable in volume and quality with the international law firms. Credited for having a ‘very skilled group of tax litigators and deeply involved in the tax world’, the group is also recommended for its ‘outstanding business acumen’ and client-focused approach. Herbert Odell, who enjoys ‘a great amount of respect from the IRS’, is recommended for advising US entities operating abroad. Philip Karter settled favorably for Frontier Oil Corporation in an $18m dispute relating to the interpretation of treasury regulation, which led to its amendment. Larry Campagna and David Aughtry are also recommended.

Headed by the ‘innovative and strategicGerald Kafka, Latham & Watkins LLP’s Washington DC-centered tax controversy practice expanded its fraud and FATCA capabilities with the recruitment of two highly regarded tax litigators, Miriam Fisher and Brian McManus, from Morgan Lewis. Both Fisher and McManus focus their ‘very solid’ practice on federal tax controversy and litigation, including complex civil and criminal matters. The ‘great and wonderful’ Fisher’s client base includes energy, communications, media, hospitality, financial services and professional services industries, and global high-net-worth individuals. Acknowledged as one of the next generation’s top tax lawyers, Fisher has a considerable governmental experience. Work highlights included a favorable decision of the US Tax Court allowing an Iberdrola subsidiary's interest deductions relating to more than $1bn of debt, and finalizing agreed administrative settlements with the IRS reversing more than $20bn in proposed adjustments by the IRS for three separate clients.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s tax controversy group saw the arrival of 13 new attorneys in the past 12 months. The state and local controversy practice in Washington DC was expanded with the addition of Stephen Kranz and Diann Smith from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, who recently achieved a significant victory for Microsoft. Dwight Mersereau also joined the practice from Miller & Chevalier Chartered. Cym Lowell and Mark Martin in Texas joined from Gardere Wynne Sewell, giving the practice a transfer pricing focus, including alternative dispute resolutions (ADR) through advance pricing agreements (APA) and competent authority proceedings. The Chicago office was strengthened by the hires of highly regarded tax litigation lawyers, Roger Jones and Andrew Robertson from Latham & Watkins LLP. Jones and Robertson won a significant taxpayer victory in the US Supreme Court for Home Concrete & Supply. Headed by the ‘fantastic’ and ‘very strong trial lawyer’ Jean Pawlow, the firm provides ‘excellent services for reasonable fees’ and is recognised for having a stand-alone tax litigation department, with expertise in state tax litigation.

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP’s tax practice group spans the Atlanta, Washington DC, California and New York offices. Co-headed by Jerome Libin and Mark Smith in Washington DC, the practice is credited as being a leading expert in SALT, handling tax disputes in nearly every state in the country. In 2012, the practice expanded its expertise, taking a number of attorneys from the defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP ; Dennis Allen and Kristan Rizzolo in Washington DC; Jeffrey Mace, Linda Sciuto, Bruce Wright and Saren Goldner joined as counsel in New York; and Christopher Schoen as counsel in Washington DC. In California, Carley Roberts also joined the team from Morrison & Foerster LLP, and the recognised SALT expert Prentiss Wilson left his practice to join the firm. Jonathan Feldman in Atlanta and Vanessa Scott in Washington were promoted from counsel to partner. The firm is currently representing American International Group, Coca-Cola Enterprises, FedEx Corporation, General Motors, and Microsoft. Thomas Cullinan, for federal tax controversy, and the ‘top-notch SALT expert’ Jeffrey Friedman, are also recommended.

Based in Washington DC and New York, Caplin & Drysdale is one of the few tax controversy practices with expertise in voluntary disclosures. The boutique law firm remains in the forefront of offshore-related matters, and is composed of a ‘very talented team’ of ‘real trial lawyers’ with ex-governmental and treasury experience. Scott Michel, president of the firm, is recognised as a prominent figure advising on matters arising from the government's recent crackdown on undeclared foreign accounts. On the international side, David Rosenbloom is advising multinational corporations and financial institutions located in the US, Brazil, Australia and Europe. Cono Namorato is also highly recommended. In February 2013, Matthew Hicks was promoted to partner and Lucy Lee departed for General Electric.

Dentons’ tax controversy practice started with the integration of the ‘excellent and sophisticated’ Todd Welty into the Dallas office. The practice has seen consistent and considerable growth, with a team of 15 tax controversy specialists in Dallas, Washington DC and New York, developing an increasingly global practice. The firm advises and represents clients from the pre-audit planning level through appeals, with focus on transfer pricing and tax examination proceedings concerning foreign bank accounts. The team recently achieved a tax exemption for Yellow Book in the administrative tribunal in New York, which has repercussion on the tax exemption of local delivery companies and similar situated taxpayers in New York State.

Mountain View-based Fenwick & West LLP is recognised as one of the leading tax controversy practices in the United States for large corporates, acting in every geographic area of the country and internationally. The firm has represented Fortune 500 companies and other large corporate clients in the United States Tax Court, the Federal Court of Claims and federal circuit courts of appeals. With an active and robust tax advice, planning and litigation practice, the firm attracts clients particularly in the area of transfer pricing disputes and advance pricing agreements. The firm also covers industry-wide issues, in matters concerning communications, consumer goods and retail, gaming and digital media, hardware, healthcare IT, internet, life sciences, semiconductors and software. The firm’s attorneys are currently involved in over 20 large corporate appeals proceedings, in four cases pending in court, and recently secured a summary judgement in favour of CBS in the US Court of Federal Claims. David Forst, lecturer at Stanford Law School on international taxation and tax practice group leader is, along with James Fuller, highly recommended.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s tax controversy practice is centered in the Chicago office, with capabilities in Washington DC. The controversy group is closely integrated with the litigation department, representing public, private companies and private equity investors in administrative controversies with the federal and state tax authorities. The firm’s ‘solid and active’ controversy practice has extensive experience in transfer pricing disputes for a number of Fortune 1000 companies in sectors such as automotive, pharmaceutical, medical products, consumer electronic and insurance. Chicago-based Natalie Keller represented Majestic Star Casino in a case, currently on appeal, in a multimillion-dollar property tax dispute regarding the value of its riverboats casinos.

Located in Washington DC, Miller & Chevalier Chartered’s tax controversy practice is chaired by the highly regarded Patricia Sweeney. The firm has significant litigation experience in federal taxation, and is praised for the breadth and depth of its practice advising and representing highly sophisticated corporate clients, as well as tax-exempt organisations. The firm’s client roster includes nearly 20% of the Fortune 500, 25% of the Global 100 and 30% of the Fortune 100. The controversy group, substantially made up of lawyers with previous senior government experience, brings significant insight to its clients facing the significant issues in the areas of transfer pricing, cross-border transactions, partnership and taxation of financial transactions. In 2012, the group welcomed James Warren and Alexander Zakupowsky from Winston & Strawn LLP, and Kevin Downing from the US Department of Justice.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s tax controversy practice deals with state, federal, and international taxation issues throughout all stages of the planning and controversy process across the US and internationally. The attorneys, largely composed of former senior government officials from Congressional Offices, the IRS, Treasury, and Justice Department, have extensive experience advising on start-to-finish controversy. The team is widely regarded for its trial experience-based advice and deep understanding of government scrutiny, while planning, implementing transactions and developing administrative and judicial procedures, strategy and tactics. Arthur Bailey, Walker Johnson, Matthew Lerner and Phillip West are credited by clients for their ‘substantive and trustworthy’ tax knowledge, experience and ability to provide tailored advice. Bailey and Johnson are currently representing John Hancock Financial Services in a high-value dispute with the IRS regarding the treatment of leveraged leases for federal income tax purposes. Major other clients include AARP, EQT Corporation, Liberty Media, Liberty Global, Amazon and Eastman Kodak.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s tax group has more than 50 attorneys advising in all aspects of tax controversy. The bulk of the practice is in Washington DC, with additional resources in London, New York and Paris. The expanding group stands out for its advice to corporations and individuals in US, French and UK taxation matters and transactions. The former Chief Counsel of the IRS Donald Korb heads the Washington DC-centred controversy practice. Over the past 12 months, the group handled a considerable number of multibillion-dollar IRS examinations involving complex issues on transfer pricing, contract manufacturing, foreign base company sales income, debt and equity. Ronald Creamer Jr recently succeeded Andrew Solomon as head of the global tax practice in the New York office. He is noted for his ‘very clear communication’, ‘responsive advice’ and ‘business-focused negotiation skills’. Diana Wollman is also recommended for federal tax matters.

Baker Botts L.L.P.’s Houston-based tax controversy practice has gained a reputation for its expertise in representing large corporate in the energy and technology sectors in substantial, complex tax controversies. The chair of the tax department, Richard Husseini, is noted for being ‘extremely responsive, exceptionally smart and patient’ and for having ‘an impressive ethic that creates great deal of trust’. The ‘excellent’ and highly recommended John Porter represented a large number of estates before the IRS and the United States Tax Court.

Cooley LLP has gained considerable recognition in the market for its work, including the victory gained for Entergy Corporation involving $250m in foreign tax credits. Tax controversy head Stephen Gardner led the advice in this matter and has a very solid reputation. Seasoned litigator Kathleen Pakenham is another name to note; she represented Newmont Mining in a case before the US tax court concerning issues relating to commodity forward sales contracts, creditability of foreign taxes, and valuation of complex mining assets.

Covington & Burling LLP’s 23-strong tax team ‘stands out for its interest in brain-storming new structures and solutions’ and for its ‘great interaction with tax authorities’. Co-headed by Daniel Luchsinger and Reeves Westbrook in Washington DC, the group has considerable depth in transfer pricing, representing major multinational companies in complex, high-stakes disputes. Emin Toro, alongside appellate partner Robert Long, recently acted in The Health Care Case (National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius) at the US Supreme Court. Toro was involved in the preparation of two rounds of briefs on the Anti-Injunction Act, which challenged the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. Robert Culbertson is also recommended for his ‘broad experience in various areas and creative solutions’. Michael Levy has retired.

John Allender heads Fulbright & Jaworski LLP’s tax department, mainly located in Houston but with a broader presence in Texas and New York. The litigation practice is an integrated team of ‘excellent lawyers’ handling a wide spectrum of tax- related issues, including federal tax and SALT in New York, California and Texas, and domestic and international tax planning. Known for its ‘highly combative approach’, the group has advised companies across all industry sectors, including private foundations, public charities, partnerships, trusts, high-net-worth individuals and families. Clients include Baylor Health Care System, Armand Hammer Foundation, AT&T and Prospector Offshore Drilling. Charles Hall, William Lee and Jasper Taylor are recommended.

With a footprint on both the East and West Coast, Morgan Lewis’ tax controversy practice is led by Barton Basset in Palo Alto. The group provides federal and SALT advice in all phases of controversy, and is well known for its expertise in assisting corporate clients especially in the technology, manufacturing and energy sector. The firm’s controversy practice has gained a reputation for its client-oriented solutions and integrated practice with other departments. Experienced trial attorney in San Francisco William Colgin, and benefits and executive compensation expert Mary Hevener in Washington DC are recommended. In 2012 Rod Donnelly joined the group in Palo Alto.

New York-based Craig Fields and Thomas Humphreys co-head Morrison & Foerster LLP’s tax controversy practice. The group is currently advising the official creditors committee for Ambac Financial Groups in all US tax aspects of the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. Other major clients include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Canada. New York-based Remmelt Reigersman, described by clients as ‘the most insightful and well-informed tax attorney in our space’ was promoted to partner; he specialises in federal and international tax matters, and advises clients on transactional work for capital markets transactions, bankruptcies, restructurings, corporate mergers, acquisitions, joined ventures and tax planning in connection with inbound and outbound investments.

Reed Smith LLP is recognized for its strength in SALT matters and has a substantial team dedicated exclusively to state tax issues. The team, led by Lee Zoeller, handles multi-state issues, including litigation, across the US. The team is particularly strong in the negotiation and discreet settlement of complex state tax disputes out of court. The team lost Washington DC-based partners Donald Griswold and Walter Nagel, who both moved across to Crowell & Moring LLP in August 2012. Denise Obrochta joined the team in Chicago as counsel in February 2013 from her position as director of state and local taxes for Navistar.

Sidley Austin LLP’s broad practice has considerable strength in tax controversy matters. The team handles federal and SALT issues and represents clients at all stages of the administrative process, from audit to administrative appeal, and before local trial courts through to the US Supreme Court. The firm’s impressive corporate client base provides the tax practice with a constant flow of work. Jay Zimbler, in Chicago, is a key partner in tax controversy and led the representation of Principal Life Insurance in the US Federal Claims Court in a case involving tax refunds in relation to several separate investments. Laura Barzilai co-heads the tax practice and has a strong reputation in contentious matters as part of a broader practice.

Texas-based Thompson & Knight LLP has a strong tax controversy practice with a focus primarily on energy-related matters. The ‘fantastic’ Emily Parker is managing partner of the firm and has extensive experience in contentious tax matters, particularly in taxation of natural resources and partnership and corporate transactions involving the petroleum industry. Mary McNulty also dedicates her practice to controversy and specializes in federal tax procedures and partnership tax issues related to private equity, oil and gas, wind energy, real estate, and exempt organizations. In addition to its civil practice, the firm represents clients faced with criminal investigations and prosecutions on tax offences as well as related white-collar criminal charges. Key practice clients include Apache, Chevron and Noble Energy.

Winston & Strawn LLP’s federal tax controversy practice is chaired by Washington DC-based Daniel Dumezich and co-chaired by Chicago-based James Lynch and Louis Weber, representing clients interests at all administrative and judicial levels. The SALT practice is co-chaired by Chuck Moll in San Francisco and has one of the most diverse practices in California and across the country, providing services on the full range of SALT controversy issues. The tax controversy team has built a reputation for its client-oriented approach and ‘strong knowledge of the law’. The team represents individuals, major finance institutions and public accounting firms, including the recent representation of Thrifty Oil before the US Tax Court in a case, regarding ordinary and necessary business expenses linked to a contingent liability tax structure, against the IRS.

Greenberg Traurig LLP’s Barbara Kaplan is a ‘terrific lawyer’. Based in New York, she focuses her practice on tax litigation in federal, state, and local tax examinations including administrative and grand jury criminal tax matters. Clients include domestic and foreign corporations, partnerships and individuals. Also in New York, David Bunning has broad experience in federal, state and local tax audits and appeals. In San Francisco, former tax litigator for the IRS Michelle Ferreira is recommended. The firm lost Phillip Pillar, who moved across to Grant Thornton in January 2013.

Cristina Arumi heads Hogan Lovells LLP’s tax controversy practice in Washington DC, which is known for its its solid long-term client base. The team attracts a growing flow of domestic and international corporate and individual clients, in particular for its international reach and capability in providing transatlantic tax advice. Highly recommend Todd Miller is praised as having ‘a great understanding of the IRS, its processes and people within’, as being ‘always very conscientious and timely in his work’ and ‘of the highest integrity’. He has handled, in the past 12 months, an increasing number of matters related to planning, corporate transactions and transfer pricing.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP’s tax controversy team consists of attorneys with very diverse senior governmental experience, who bring a deep understanding of tax authorities and tax system from different angles into their litigation work. New York-based James Chudy co-ordinates firmwide the tax practice, and San Francisco-based Jeffrey Vesely leads the SALT practice. The group can point to the recent success in the San Francisco Superior Court, where Vesely represented the Archdiocese of San Francisco in a $22m tax dispute with the City and County of San Francisco. William Bonano, in San Francisco, is also recommended for international tax and tax controversy.

Shearman & Sterling LLP’s tax controversy practice has developed a good position in the market since former trial attorney for the IRS, Lawrence Hill, joined in May 2012 from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, where he was chair of the tax controversy and litigation practice group. The firm has considerable strength in the representation of multinational companies in cross-border transactions and advises an impressive client base across the spectrum of tax matters. The controversy team was further strengthened with the arrival of counsel Richard Nessler, also from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, in 2012. Nessler is an experienced litigator and has represented clients in New York State tax controversy matters as well as in government and internal investigations and related tax and appellate matters. Thomas Johnston, in Washington DC, is also recommended.

Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. expanded its tax practice in Washington DC with the addition of two new partners in January 2013: Gary Huffman and Joe Garcia from Bingham McCutchen LLP. George Gerachis, recognised among lawyers and clients for his ‘knowledgeable, responsive and honest work’, heads the tax practice in the Houston office. The firm attracts clients nationwide for its expertise in the energy and hi-tech sectors. The ‘co-operative’ and ‘cost-conscious’ team has also significant experience representing multinationals, global high-net-worth individuals, partnerships, government entities and non-profits in all stages of tax controversy. Clients include 7-Eleven, BMC Software, GenON Energy, Halliburton Company, Hudson Advisors, Trinity Industries, University of Texas and Zimmer Holdings. Donald Wood, for federal litigation, and Glen Rosenbaum, in Houston for SALT, are both recommended.

Mainly based in Washington DC and New York, White & Case LLP’s tax practice has a wide global network with a presence in major financial centres and several emerging markets. Headed by Washington DC-based Michael Quigley, the controversy group includes Kim Boylan, a ‘proactive and excellent communicator and strategist’, who ‘leaves no stone unturned when researching complex issues, delivering superior written work product’. Boyle represented recently Expedia in the United States Court of Federal Claims in a matter related to stock valuation in the context of an IPO. Brian Gleicher is also recommended for transfer pricing and tax treaty issues, and for his ‘broad base of tax knowledge’, ‘tremendous research skills’ and ‘superb customer service’.

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