Bloomberg Reporter Peter Green Wins 3rd Annual Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize For Tough, Savvy Series on Corporate Tax Cheating and Limited IRS Use of Whistle Blowers
NEW YORK, Oct. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism today announced that Bloomberg News reporter and Knight-Bagehot alumnus Peter S. Green (’2004) has won the third annual Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize.
The award recognizes Mr. Green’s sophisticated and influential coverage of widespread tax avoidance among US corporations amid ambivalent, ineffectual use by the Internal Revenue Service of the whistle blower program that Congress created to assist the agency in 2006.
In a pair of major feature stories in 2011 and 2012, and follow-up news coverage this year:
In July, 2011, he exposed the corporate problem by highlighting a whistle blower suit charging that construction equipment giant Caterpillar Inc.’s avoided $2 billion of taxes from 2000 to 2009 by improperly attributing to a Swiss unit at least $5.6 billion of profits from its lucrative parts business, even though the profits came from sales and shipments made by US employees, from a US warehouse. (see: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-08/caterpillar-accused-of-demoting-tax-whistleblower.html);
June 19 this year, Peter and Bloomberg reporter-at-large Jesse Drucker examined IRS resistance to actively using the 1300 whistle blowers who have come forward under the Congressionally-mandated program. They found IRS fears of violating privacy laws, worry over Congressional badgering in behalf of influential constituents under investigation, and concerns over critical staff shortages. “Just three awards (to whistle blowers) have been paid” despite the IRS admitting taxpayers owe $385 billion a year more than it has been able to collect, or more than a third of the estimated US budget deficit. (See: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-19/irs-resists-whistleblowers-despite-wide-u-s-tax-gap.html);
In July Mr. Green wrote about a June 20 staff memo from the IRS director promised improvement on the use of the whistle blower program, which the Bloomberg story had called “the place where allegations of tax avoidance go to die.”
In July, he got a copy of a June 21 letter from the whistle blower program co-sponsor in 2006, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and his boss, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Deriding limited IRS use of the program, he demanded a “comprehensive review.” The letter still wasn’t answered by either official after more than two weeks, and Sen. Grassley told Mr. Green he’d hold up required Senate hearings on two pending Treasury appointments until it was.
Mr. Green will receive the Welles Prize at the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship’s 37(th) anniversary dinner on Wednesday, October 24, in New York. Preceded by a cocktail reception and followed by a dessert reception, the dinner has become one of New York’s prime media-networking events. It is chaired this year by Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes and will be addressed by keynote speaker Gillian Tett, assistant editor of the Financial Times.
The Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize memorializes the former Business Week columnist and editor — and Knight-Bagehot Advisory Board Member — who died in June, 2010, at age 72. It is awarded for any story or series produced by a graduate of the Knight-Bagehot program that best reflect business and financial sophistication and epitomizes the late Mr. Welles’ ideals of thorough reporting, good storytelling and timeliness. “Peter’s great work exemplifies the reportorial sophistication and insight that this fellowship was created to impart. We’re very proud of him,” said Knight-Bagehot Director Terri Thompson.