Morris Zukerman spent 16 years at Morgan Stanley, at various points overseeing its energy and merchant banking practices, before starting his own investment firm in the late 1980s. His firm’s partners have included ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Kinder Morgan. He endowed a Harvard sociology professorship. He collected dozens of expensive paintings, including works he loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Along the way, he evaded more than $45 million in taxes, the U.S. now alleges.
Zukerman avoided income and sales taxes by hiding his gains in phony commercial and charitable transactions, according to an indictment made public on Monday by a federal court in Manhattan.
The indictment arrives as tax evasion draws renewed attention from law enforcement agencies and policy makers, prompted by leaked Panama law firm documents showing how networks of international shell companies are used by the ultra-rich to shield assets. But the Zukerman allegations are a reminder of the continued prevalence of methods that are far more old school.
Zukerman failed to report profits from the sale of an oil company, lied to his accountants, created phony and backdated documents and shipped paintings to addresses in Delaware and New Jersey to avoid New York state sales tax on artwork that hangs in his Park Avenue duplex, according to the indictment. He also took charitable tax deductions for donations he didn’t make, it says.
Zukerman “committed numerous tax crimes and related criminal offenses,” the indictment says. A message left with his office in Manhattan was not immediately returned. He’s scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
Zukerman, 71, is the chairman of M.E. Zukerman & Co. Inc., which invests in “stable assets used to produce, gather, process, transport, store, refine or distribute crude oil, natural gas and related products,” according to the company’s website.
He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School and studied economics at Cambridge University, according to a biography on his firm’s site. He worked in the Nixon White House, under George P. Shultz in the Office of Management and Budget, according to published biographies. He worked at Morgan Stanley from 1972 to 1988. Since then he has served as a member of the Board of Overseers at Harvard University and as a trustee of Phillips Academy, among other positions.
Along with Kinder Morgan and ExxonMobil, Zukerman’s firm, through a subsidiary, owns a significant stake in the Cortez Pipeline Company, which operates a 500-mile carbon dioxide pipeline running from Texas to Colorado.