Friday, October 29, 2021

Incarcerated Vanda Gould awaits costs verdict

Instead of thought there is a vast, inhuman void, full of words, formulas, slogans, declarations, echoes, ideologies ... If we do not think, we cannot act freely; we are at the mercy of forces which we never understand, forces that are arbitrary, destructive, blind, fatal to us and our world.’ 
- Thomas Merton

Incarcerated Vanda Gould awaits costs verdict

Imprisoned people rarely sue for defamation. But even from Long Bay prison, Vanda Gouldis still fighting for his reputation. To middling success and, we suspect, at not inconsiderable expense.

Following last week’s ruling, Gould’s lawyers have until Wednesday to file their arguments about the allocation of legal costs in the convicted accountant’s unsuccessful defamation case against tax commissionerChris Jordan. Each side brought a silk to proceedings, which is never cheap.

Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan defamed Vanda Gould in 2017, but defensibly so.  Alex Ellinghausen

Jordan’s lawyers have already filed their proposals on the matter, though given Jordan made the offending comments while representing the Australian Taxation Office publicly, one presumes it will cover his legal bills (we asked the ATO to confirm this: it declined to comment).

The Federal Court’s Richard White did award Gould a technical point against Jordan, finding that the commissioner had been wrong to say at the National Press Club in 2017 that strong suggestions of “money laundering, insider trading and tax evasion of the worst kind” in a case involving Gould had been “confirmed by the High Court”. That being the case, Jordan couldn’t claim his comments were a fair report of court proceedings.

But he affirmed another of Jordan’s defences, being that of qualified privilege. This rested on Jordan’s right to respond to public criticisms, including those made by Gould’s lawyer (and ex-Liberal branch stacker) John Hyde Pagethat the ATO’s Project Wickenby was “a disgrace to public administration”, a “gestapo unit” whose members should be sacked. Gould, who didn’t direct Page’s comments, had similarly robust critiques in comments to a parliamentary committee.

The qualified privilege finding meant that while Jordan’s comments about Gould were deemed defamatory, they were, ultimately, defensible. That being the case, White made no further adjudication on Jordan’s other defences, including of contextual truth.

Gould is serving a jail sentence for perverting the course of justice over attempts to coach a witness in a separate case. Funnily enough, that ruling had nothing to do with Gould losing his financial services licence earlier this month, convictions seemingly counting for less on that score than tardy paperwork.

Myriam Robin is a Rear Window columnist based in the Financial Review's Melbourne newsroom. Connect with Myriam on Twitter. Email Myriam at

 As Democrats attempt to figure out how to pay for Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, one idea a number of lawmakers have coalesced around is a tax on the wealthiest people in the country, whose net worths begin with a b. Drafted by Senator Ron Wyden, the plan, released on Wednesday, would raise hundreds of billions of dollars from approximately 700 billionaires by requiring them to pay taxes on the increase in value of their publicly traded assets, like stocks and bonds. One of the many reasons the proposal is more than fair is because despite being the richest people in the country by a long shot, many billionaires often pay nothing in income taxes; unlike working stiffs who actually have to collect a paycheck, these people live off of the skyrocketing value of their assets, which, unlike income, is not taxed until said assets are sold. (The ultrarich are able to pay for stuff, while holding on to their extremely valuable stock and taking $1 salaries to further avoid taxes, by repeatedly taking out loans with single-digit interest rates that the IRS does not consider income, a process dubbed “buy, borrow, die.”) Which is how, for example, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the richest people in the world, have been able to get away with paying zero dollars and zero cents in income taxes in some years, and, in the case of Musk, a laughable $68,000 in 2015 and $65,000 in 2017.

Given that Musk paid nothing in income taxes in 2018 and, as of yesterday, was worth $287 billion, you might think that he’d reflect on his situation and say, “You know what? This is fine. The tax won’t affect my life in any way whatsoever, but it would help millions of people who make less money over the course of their entire lives than I do in a single day. So go for it—make me pay my fair share.” But...surprise! Instead, he’s thrown a predictable hissy fit over the whole thing.

Per Insider:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday evening criticized a Democratic tax proposal that would target American billionaires to fund a safety net expansion, saying it represented the start of a new campaign from Democrats to redistribute wealth from the richest Americans. “Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you,” he wrote on Twitter. In a separate tweet, Musk said any government-induced reallocation of wealth would be better managed by the private sector. “Who is best at capital allocation — government or entrepreneurs — is indeed what it comes down to,” he wrote on Twitter. “The tricksters will conflate capital allocation with consumption.”

Elon Musk Throws a S--t Fit Over the Possibility of Being Taxed His Fair Share