Skip to main content

Leon Cooperman Throws Accountant Under A Bus

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Honestly, what's a billionaire gotta do to get some decent advice vis-a-vis what's "legal" and what's "not" around here?

Cooperman filed a U.S. Tax Court lawsuit last month after the Internal Revenue Service disallowed his deductions for $43 million in charitable contributions he made to his own family's private foundation. In interviews with Forbes, Cooperman and his lawyer for the lawsuit said Cooperman was given bum advice by advisers before making the gifts. The contributions were of a nonmarketable security, in this case rights to a portion of ongoing fees earned by a hedge fund to which Cooperman had provided startup money but didn't run. He said experienced tax practitioners he hired declared he could take a deduction on the personal tax returns he and his wife filed for 2005 and 2006, so long as professional appraisals set the values.

Cooperman now concedes ruefully that, appraisal or not, federal law specifically prohibits such deductions of non-publicly traded securities to a private foundation. Properly appraised gifts of nonmarketable securities to public charities such as, say, the American National Red Cross present no deduction problem. The long-standing restriction--Forbes mentioned it in 2004--was enacted to prevent well-heeled taxpayers from inflating the value of gifts to their own charities.

Cooperman, 67, of Short Hills, N.J., said he found out about that distinction only after the IRS disallowed the gift deductions and sent him a bill for $14 million in back taxes and $5 million in accuracy-related penalties. "I got that letter and I was mortified," the plain-speaking Cooperman told Forbes during earthy and engaging conversations. "I lead a simple life." His chagrin quickly turned to anger when he learned about the crucial private foundation/public charity distinction on gifts of nonpublic securities. "I could have given this to a public charity and gotten the deduction," Cooperman lamented.

Billionaire Leon Cooperman: I Got Bad Tax Advice [Forbes]


Leon Cooperman Considering Taking His Ball And Going Home

The hedge fund managers is sick of answering questions like, "What am I paying you 2&20 for?"

Getty Images

Leon Cooperman Thinking Of Taking A Page From Steve Cohen's Playbook

L. Coops doesn't need you. He doesn't need any of you!

Leon Cooperman's Beef With President Obama Involves An Unsolicited Copy Of His 14 Year-Old Granddaughter's Self-Published Memoirs And Not One Handwritten Thank-You Note In Return

Last November, hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman penned an "Open Letter To The President Of The United States of America," in which he detailed the many ways Barack Obama was pissing him off. The Omega Advisors founder accused the President (and his "minions") of engaging in class warfare, expressed disbelief that he could attack "capitalists who...fill store shelves at Christmas" and still sleep at night, and advised Obama to "eschew the polarizing vernacular of political militancy," lest he lose* Cooperman's vote the next year.  While LC says that he received a major outpouring of support for his words ("[he] keeps a bulging manila folder of congratulatory notes in his office"), others were less than pleased at what they saw as a guy who actually has done pretty okay under Obama lashing out because his feelings were hurt on the occasions the president was perceived to have a "tone" in his voice when discussing the mega-wealthy ("If I knew where you lived, I’d put a bomb in your car," one person wrote Cooperman to say). Similarly, Cooperman's suggestion, on at least two occasions, that America should be worried about the startling parallels between Obama's rise to power and that of Adolf Hitler,** was met with mixed reviews, including one by his wife in which she called him a "schmuck." And while some*** have found it preposterous that Cooperman would paint himself as a victim of Obama, their astonishment speaks to not knowing the whole story, i.e. exactly what this man- no, this monster- did to Leon. Last July, before he had written the letter, Cooperman was invited to the White House for a reception to honor wealthy philanthropists who had signed Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least fifty per cent of their net worth to charity. At the event, Cooperman handed the President two copies of “Inspired: My Life (So Far) in Poems,” a self-published book written by Courtney Cooperman, his fourteen-year-old granddaughter. Cooperman was surprised that the President didn’t send him a thank-you note or that Malia and Sasha Obama, for whom the books were intended as a gift and to whom Courtney wrote a separate letter, didn’t write to Courtney. (After Cooperman grumbled to a few friends, including Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, Michelle Obama did write. Booker, who was also a recipient of Courtney’s book, promptly wrote her “a very nice note,” Cooperman said.) Now do you understand? Now do you understand? Even Hitler would have sent SOMETHING. Super-Rich Irony [New Yorker] Earlier: Leon Cooperman Doesn't Like The Tone Of President Obama's Voice *Just messing about him ever being in a position to "lose" it, of course. **Settle down, he wasn't saying Obama IS Hitler, would would be biologically impossible, he was just saying Obama is the second coming of Hitler, which is something people should be aware of: “You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world,” Cooperman told the New Yorker in May. “Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied. Now, Obama’s not Hitler. I don’t even mean to say anything like that. But it is a question that the dissatisfaction of the populace was so great that they were willing to take a chance on an untested individual.” ***Mrs. Cooperman, for example.: She is still a liberal, a position that puts her in the minority in their social circle. “She can be a socialist because she’s married to a capitalist,” Cooperman says of his wife, who is strongly pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. She calls Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry “morons,” and she worries about the underclass. “I care more about the disadvantaged people of America,” she said, comparing her politics with those of her husband.

This'll do. By Maniago (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leon Cooperman Regularly Asks His Friends To "Make Up The Sofa Bed"

What? Hotels are a racket and you can't trust the kids at AirBnB!