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Sidley Austin Brown & Wood has fired the controversial head of its tax shelter practice for breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of the firm’s partnership agreement. The dismissed partner, R.J. Ruble, who worked in the New York office of the Chicago-based firm, was among the nation’s leading providers of opinion letters blessing tax shelters for corporations and wealthy individuals, some of whom have since sued the firm. The Internal Revenue Service sued Sidley Austin Oct. 14 seeking information on the firm’s clients who have participated in tax shelters. In a brief statement issued Monday, the firm said it was firing Ruble, 58, for misconduct unrelated “to the substance of opinions at issue in current litigation or to any ongoing tax work for existing clients.” The firm said its actions were based on activities by Ruble that the firm became aware of only last Thursday. Thomas Cole, chairman of the firm, did not return a call seeking comment. Leslie D. Corwin, a partner in the New York office of Greenberg Traurig specializing in law firm partnership disputes, said most instances in which partners were fired for breaching their fiduciary duty involved partners earning extra income from activities not authorized by the firm. Partnership agreements frequently do not directly address the issue, he said, though he noted that some expressly forbid partners from engaging in any moneymaking venture apart from practicing law at the firm.

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