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Lawrence Gibbs When clients describe Lawrence Gibbs, the one word they use again and again is “integrity.” David Hernandez, vice president of taxes and general counsel of the Electronic Data Systems Corp., cites Gibbs’ record of “impeccable integrity.” Says Hernandez: “He commands the respect of public officials, private practitioners, and corporate executives.” Deborah Lange, senior vice president of tax and customs at the Oracle Corp., agrees, calling Gibbs a “trusted adviser” and “an excellent attorney with the highest degrees of integrity and professionalism.” The importance of integrity was driven home for Gibbs when he first came to Washington, D.C., in 1972 as deputy chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. “If I had gone out and laid in the grass in front of the IRS, I’d have disappeared, I was so green,” Gibbs says, laughing. But the Watergate scandal seasoned him fast. In January 1973, Gibbs became acting chief counsel of the IRS. On his watch, Vice President Spiro Agnew was indicted for income tax evasion. The IRS was also dealing with the fallout from revelations that President Richard Nixon had given the agency an “enemies list” of taxpayers to audit. After nine months on the job, Gibbs moved to a career position as assistant commissioner (technical), where he remained until 1976. “I learned a lot about reputation and integrity, and how quickly it could be lost in this city,” says Gibbs. A 1963 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Gibbs went home to Dallas in 1976, joining Johnson & Swanson. He says he thought he would never return to Washington. But 10 years later, Gibbs got a call from Treasury Secretary James Baker III, offering him the job of IRS commissioner. The agency was in crisis. The previous year, the IRS had revamped its computer systems with disastrous results, delaying millions of refund checks for months. “[Baker] told me that one secret of success in Washington is to keep expectations low and that expectations for the IRS were so low, I wouldn’t have any problem,” Gibbs recalls. He served as commissioner until 1989, focusing on improving the quality of the agency’s work and fostering the notion of taxpayers as customers. “It was absolutely the best professional experience I’ve ever had,” he says. When Gibbs rejoined his old firm, renamed Johnson & Gibbs, he stayed in town to open a D.C. office. In early 1994, he moved to Miller & Chevalier. (His former firm disbanded in early 1995.) Today Gibbs, 66, has a broad practice counseling large corporations on domestic and international tax issues. Notable colleagues include Marianna Dyson, Phillip Mann, Robert Moore II, and Alexander Zakupowsky Jr. One major client is Citigroup Inc. Chief tax officer Saul Rosen says that Gibbs provides “excellent advice” in dealing with IRS audits and appeals. “Throughout what is a roller-coaster process, Larry is unflappable and calmly consistent,” says Rosen. Other big clients include Fannie Mae, Texas Instruments Inc., Del Monte Fresh Produce, Infospace Inc., and the Barrick Gold Corp. A detailed account of Gibbs’ work in 1992 on behalf of the Security Pacific Corp. is found in the book Dead Bank Walking, written by the company’s former chairman and CEO Robert Smith. Financially vulnerable, the West Coast bank urgently sought a merger with Bank of America. But as the deal progressed, Security Pacific realized it might have violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Depending on how the IRS interpreted certain transactions, the company potentially faced a $1 billion penalty and derailment of the merger. With only two weeks to resolve the issue, Security Pacific hired Gibbs to meet with the IRS. “Gibbs marched in there, shook hands, smiled, renewed acquaintances, and showed them the facts,” wrote Smith. “Gibbs persuaded the IRS staff that the transactions were [an] innocuous oversight.” The penalty was reduced to just $50,000, the deal closed on time, and Security Pacific paid Gibbs $1 million for his services. And when an in-house lawyer protested that was “far too much to pay one lawyer for a meeting with the IRS,” Smith replied, “Screw that. . . . He earned every cent. I’ll write the check myself if necessary.”

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