hearings

  • 21 May 2013 at 11:06 AM

Senate Discovers There’s A Tax Code

Here’s a math problem: what does this sentence, from John McCain, tell you?

“Apple claims to be the largest U.S. corporate taxpayer, but by sheer size and scale, it is also among America’s largest tax avoiders,” he said in Monday’s pre-hearing comments.

The answer, of course, is that Apple is among the most profitable companies in America.1 If you have a lot of profits, you can not pay taxes on a lot of them, and still pay lots of taxes on a different lot of them. There is much focus on the exceptions, but for the most part I’d guess that “biggest taxpayers” and “biggest tax avoiders” are both highly correlated to “biggest profits.” Warren Buffett pays more taxes than his secretary, but at a lower rate.

The Senate, not being known for its quickness with math, is holding hearings today on the avoiding part; here you can read (pdf) the committee’s report. Apple does two main things to avoid taxes that the committee doesn’t like:

  • It incorporated two of its main foreign subsidiaries, Apple Operations International (AOI) and Apple Sales International (ASI), in Ireland. Those subsidiaries are, however, managed and controlled in the U.S. by their California-based directors. The U.S. taxes corporate income based on place of incorporation; Ireland taxes corporate income based on place of management and control. So if you’re incorporated in Ireland and managed and controlled in the U.S. you pay taxes nowhere, as AOI does and ASI more or less does. This is … honestly isn’t the surprise that everyone doesn’t do this?2 I’m incorporating myself in Ireland as we speak.
  • It entered a cost sharing agreement that gave ASI the economic rights to Apple intellectual property outside of America, in exchange for ASI funding a share of Apple’s California-based R&D proportional to its share of Apple’s total sales. Apple is in the business of manufacturing cheap electronic components in China, slapping expensive cool on them in California, and selling the package for $500. ASI effectively got the California cool at cost, rather than paying retail, which means that the international share (some 60%) of the profits of that cool are, for tax purposes, “earned” abroad (in a zero-tax subsidiary!) rather than in California.

That’s the main stuff; there’s some stupid stuff too.3 Apple’s response is a lot of blather that boils down to: Read more »

The executive who led the J.P. Morgan Chase Co. cash-management unit at the center of the “London Whale” debacle is scheduled to testify Friday before a Senate panel probing the $6 billion trading loss at the nation’s largest bank by assets. Former Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew, who resigned as head of the unit last May, will make her first public appearance since the New York company disclosed the trading losses last spring. [WSJ]

If we’re being totally honest, while it had its moments, last week’s Jamie Dimon Congressional hearing to discuss Whale Boy was a bit of a letdown, theatrically-speaking. This was probably due in large part to the fact that it was conducted by the Senate Banking Committee, and the Senate typically comes off intelligent and reasonable compared to the House,* and proceeded accordingly. As we surely don’t have to tell you, this is not the kind of hearing we are interested in. Read more »

Is It Polish Craps? Is It Ukrainian Blackjack?

Senator Bob Menendez: I listen to this [hearing] and I paraphrase Shakespeare when I ask, a hedge or not a hedge, that is the question.
Jamie Dimon: [staring] Read more »

Jamie Dimon: Don’t Blame The Risk Committee!

They took JPMorgan through the financial crisis “with flying colors.” The Whale stuff was a blip. [Related]

The chief risk officer who was brought in to install risk management systems at MF Global after a rogue trading incident in February 2008 is expected to tell Congress Thursday he outlined his concerns about European sovereign debt trades in the fall of 2010…At the hearing, Michael Roseman is expected to say he “expressed my growing concerns with regard to the potential capital risk associated with the growing positions and began to express caution on the growing liquidity risk,” according to a copy of the testimony reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In mid-September, Roseman told MF Global’s chief executive, Jon Corzine, that he would consult the firm’s board of directors on requests to increase limits on the European trades. According to his written testimony, Roseman is expected to say that by late October of 2010, the positions were approaching $3.5 billion to $4 billion. After discussing his concerns with Corzine and others, the risk scenarios he presented “were challenged as being implausible.” Roseman’s testimony doesn’t specify who aside from Corzine and the board he told of his concerns. [FINS]

As you may have heard, a man attempted to hit Rupert Murdoch in the face with a pie during his hearing before Parliament this morning. It’s unclear what sort of cream the pastry contained (custard, whipped, shaving, man, cow), but apparently some of it “spattered Murdoch,” and the proceedings were adjourned for 10 minutes. The pie-thrower was immediately taken into custody, which probably came as relief as it meant that Rupert’s wife Wendi couldn’t finish him off. Read more »