With work booming as a result of the Tax Reform Act, an international tax boutique has folded itself into Holland & Knight’s offices in New York, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
Holland & Knight announced Tuesday its acquisition of a six-lawyer team from Sharp Partners led by Tampa-based firm founder William Sharp Sr., a veteran international tax lawyer who played a key role in the 2008 crackdown on Swiss bank accounts.
The Am Law 100 firm also hired James “Chip” Cottrell Jr., a former global chief ethics officer at accounting giant Deloitte, who works closely with Sharp and other Holland & Knight partners. Cottrell’s new role at the firm will be as director of ancillary services in Washington, D.C.
The team from Sharp Partners, which also had an office in Zurich, Switzerland, advises foreign and domestic clients on tax planning, compliance and controversy issues. The group’s clients are based in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and include private and public companies, individuals and families, Holland & Knight said. The firm’s tax practice currently includes more than 80 lawyers.
Sharp, who spends between 90 and 120 days each year in Switzerland, told The American Lawyer on Tuesday that his firm will benefit from being part of a larger platform since its clients had experienced growth and U.S. tax law has become more complicated following the passage of the Tax Reform Act last December.
Asked about his decision to shut down a firm he has run for nearly 30 years, Sharp said his domestic clients with large businesses overseas were in need of tax counsel as the rate on income earned abroad spiked from a deferral to as high as 37 percent under new regulations. With restructuring help, that percentage can go to as low as 10.5 percent before state income tax implications, Sharp said.
“That requires a great deal of restructuring,” said Sharp about the focus of his firm’s recent efforts in responding to the federal government’s tax reforms.
Sharp said he has already put on 15 clinics about the new U.S. tax law for clients in Europe during two separate tours of the continent that spanned nine cities.
“I didn’t expect it would be this much work until I read the statute on Dec. 22 last year,” Sharp said. “We said, ‘Houston we’ve got a problem.’ International tax lawyers are going to have to retool their skills and expertise, because it really did rewrite a lot of the rules, especially applicable to outbound tax planning.”
In addition to Sharp and Cottrell, Holland & Knight is also bringing on partners Andrea Darling de Cortés and Robert Lorndale, of counsel Alan Granwell, consulting counsel Robert Katzberg and associates Alexander Olama and Chad Vanderhoef from Sharp Partners. Granwell is a former director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of International Tax Affairs.
“Bill and his team have a fantastic reputation in the Tampa Bay region and beyond,” said a statement from Brad Kimbro, executive partner of Holland & Knight’s Tampa office. “Many of our clients have business dealings across multiple countries and need strategic advice on cross-border tax matters. Bill and his colleagues have deep experience in this area and credentials that are hard to match.”
Sharp said he had been approached by a number of large firms in the past but had chosen to remain independent. He was attracted to Holland & Knight because of what he perceived as a streamlined management structure that supported partners with their client needs. He also said more of his clients had grown their businesses and were in need of domestic ERISA, corporate and M&A work, in addition to other legal services.
“This allows us to leverage off [Holland & Knight] lawyers who render the services that we need to offer to our larger corporate platform, and especially in private wealth advisory services,” Sharp said. “So this is really a big opportunity for us to better represent our clients.”
Holland & Knight’s acquisition of Sharp Partners is its latest expansion effort. The 1,079-lawyer firm, which saw its gross revenue and partner profits rise in 2017, has brought on large groups of lawyers from Reed Smith and Texas-based Winstead this year. In June, Holland & Knight absorbed Ostrom Morris, a private wealth boutique in Houston.