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It wasn’t as if Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Paul Sax was describing the inner workings of La Costa Nostra when he testified before Congress last week. But it sure seemed like it. The San Francisco partner was, in his own way, turning informant on the lucrative and possibly unethical practice of corporate tax shelters — an industry that savvy lawyers and Big Five accounting firms have found too lucrative to resist. Whether tax shelters are the crack cocaine of tax law or not, Sax, chairman of the American Bar Association’s Tax Section, urged the House Ways and Means Committee to curb the proliferation of aggressive shelters through tougher disclosure requirements. Such a move could cost accounting firms billions. Sax says the ABA section may be out on a limb trying to fight Wall Street and the Big Five, but he says: “It is wrong for folks to sell deals predicated on not getting caught.” Talk like that can earn a lawyer a pair of cement wing tips.

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