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Merck Agrees to Pay $2.3 Billion in Penalties
Lawyer News | 2007/02/15 18:16

WASHINGTON —The IRS announced today that it had entered into an agreement that resolves several disputed tax issues with Merck & Co., Inc. and its subsidiaries. The agreement will result in a payment to the government of approximately $2.3 billion in federal tax, net interest and penalties, and resolves all issues that had been in dispute between the parties for the tax years 1993-2001. The resolution is one of the largest achieved in recent years by the Service and a taxpayer through the examination process.

Both the IRS and Merck acknowledge that reaching an agreement of this magnitude was the result of cooperation by both parties. To facilitate this agreement, the IRS and the taxpayer used various issue management strategies, including the Fast Track Settlement Program.

Among the significant issues resolved were three issues that resulted from Merck’s use of minority equity interest financing transactions. The execution of these agreements should facilitate the ability of the IRS and the taxpayer to move forward and effectively address tax issues arising in subsequent examination years.

REA Associates to be Barred From Tax Prep
Lawyer News | 2007/02/15 17:39

WASHINGTON - The United States filed has filed suit seeking to permanently bar Richard E. Almy and his company, REA Associates, Inc., from preparing federal tax returns, the Justice Department announced today. According to the complaint, filed in the Middle District of Florida, Almy and his company prepared tax returns that claimed overstated, duplicated, and fabricated deductions on their clients’ tax returns. An examination by the Internal Revenue Service of 175 tax returns prepared by Almy and his company during 2003 found that all of them required audit adjustments that increased the tax owed.

The government alleges that the defendants’ scheme involved knowingly ignoring or modifying information provided by their clients on summary sheets containing their income and expenses for the applicable tax year. The government estimates in the complaint that this alleged fraudulent tax preparation scheme by Almy and his company has resulted in an understatement of their customers’ federal income tax liabilities of more than $16 million for tax years 2001 through 2003 alone.

The complaint also seeks an order requiring Almy and his company to provide the Justice Department with the names, addresses, social security or taxpayer identification numbers, as well as e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of their customers.

Since 2001, the Justice Department has obtained more than 220 injunctions to stop the promotion of tax fraud schemes and the preparation of fraudulent returns. More information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division can be found at

Downtown Los Angeles Revival Going Strong
Business Law Info | 2007/02/15 00:32

Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing a real estate revival of epic proportions. And the Los Angeles Urban Redevelopment Group and its people are in the thick of it.

In just the last few years, the number of downtown residents has increased by over 30%, from 18,000 to 24,000. Early next year, the Ralph's supermarket chain will be opening the first new supermarket in the downtown area in decades. And bistros, bookstores and coffeehouses are sprouting on the ground floors of numerous historical buildings that have been redeveloped over the last few years into loft-type residences.

Although business has long been L.A.'s heart, its arts and cultural institutions have given life to its soul in recent years. Each year, thousands come to watch Esa -Pekka Salonen conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall; view avant-garde works at the Museum of Contemporary Art; or tour the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Free outdoor concerts by Grand Performances at California Plaza during the summer months offer an eclectic mix of music, dance and spoken word programs. The Museum of Neon Art houses a unique collection of neon signs from many Los Angeles landmark buildings.

Nearby Exposition Park draws hundreds of thousands of people annually to the California Science Center and IMAX, Natural History Museum and California African-American Museum. The City's ethnic diversity is also reflected by the Japanese American National Museum located in Little Tokyo.

World-class athletic teams and venues offer sports fans a wealth of choices: the Dodgers at their longtime home in Chavez Ravine just north of the Downtown Center District; plus the Kings, Lakers, Avengers, Sparks and Clippers playing at the Staples Center.

The Los Angeles Urban Redevelopment Group's unmatched track record in Downtown spans from the pioneering sale of the first major loft conversion at the Historic Bank District, the 1½ city block Gas Company land assemblage, and the placement of the first major supermarket in Downtown in over 45 years – a 50,000 square foot Ralphs grocery store.  Each of the aforementioned transactions have one common thread: the Los Angeles Urban Redevelopment Group defied what current market conditions were dictating and uncovered value for both sides of the transaction based upon our insight into the upside of Downtown Los Angeles.

Downtown Los Angeles is finally becoming the world-class live/work/play location that it's always been destined to be. And the Los Angeles Urban Redevelopment Group is very much a part of it.

Putin criticizes US foreign policy
Legal World News | 2007/02/11 06:20

Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday criticized what he called the "dangerous" use of force by the United States in the face of international law in a hard-hitting speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Speaking to a forum of over 250 participants from more than 40 countries, Putin said the almost "uncontained" use of US force had overstepped the scope of its sovereignty in the pursuit of its national interests, and observed that the Bush administration's doctrine of preventive war was destabilizing as other states were more likely to engage in nuclear proliferation when they thought they were in danger.

"We are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations ... the United States has overstepped its national borders in every way," said Putin at a high-profile security conference in southern German city of Munich.

"The legitimate use of force can only be done by the United Nations, which cannot be replaced by EU or NATO," he said.

Putin criticized the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) for becoming a "vulgar instrument for ensuring foreign policy of one country."

He also sharply criticized the planned development of 10 anti-ballistic missiles systems by the U.S. in Poland and the Czech Republic, vowing that Russia would develop cheaper, asymmetrical systems to overcome the threat.

On the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Putin said "NATO expansion is a serious factor which reduces the level of mutual trust."

Rights group urges Iraqi court to spare Saddam VP
Legal World News | 2007/02/11 06:16

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) Sunday to spare the life of former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan citing a lack of evidence tying him to the 1982 Dujail killings for which he is charged. The court reconvenes on Monday to determine whether Ramadan's life sentence should be abandoned in favor of the death penalty.

Ramadan was convicted in November in connection with crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982. The IHT Appeals Chamber ruled December 26 in its decision upholding Saddam Hussein's death sentence that the life sentence for Ramadan was too lenient and ordered the trial court to re-sentence him. On Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour filed an amicus brief with the court arguing that imposing the death penalty would be a violation of Iraq's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

North Korea Talks at a stand still
Legal World News | 2007/02/09 17:27

BEIJING – Envoys to international talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program struggled Friday to find a compromise as differences emerged over a Chinese proposal on how to begin disarmament.

Christopher Hill, the main U.S. envoy to the talks, said all sides agreed on the proposal's broader issues. Hill said the remaining issues focused on a single paragraph of the Chinese proposal for a set of reciprocal steps aimed at implementing a 2005 deal that calls for North Korea to disarm in exchange for security guarantees and aid.

Hill said the envoys were working to rewrite the text to address North Korea's concerns. He did not give any details.

“I think we can be cautiously optimistic,” Hill said after a two-hour lunch meeting with his North Korean counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, in the first bilateral session between the two sides at this week's talks.

Japan's envoy, Kenichiro Sasae, said while there was consensus on some points, but that there was no prospect of an imminent agreement.

“There are some parts in which we had progress but on others we ran into difficulty. We will continue with the talks, but at this point in time I don't feel there is a prospect of reaching an agreement,” Sasae said.

Kim said the meeting led to agreement on some unspecified issues, although there were still issues to overcome. “We are going to make more efforts to resolve them,” Kim said.

Late Thursday after the first day of talks, China distributed a draft agreement to the nuclear envoys from China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.

The proposal – presented after North Korea agreed in principle to take initial steps to disarm – would grant the communist nation unspecified energy aid for shutting down its main nuclear facilities within two months, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Officials declined to confirm details of the draft.

Hill said earlier Friday he saw “differences” among the delegations over the draft deal.

A South Korean official also cautioned against being too optimistic. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said it is “not as easy as expected to produce a result due to differences in positions and a conflict of interests.”

Both Hill and the South Korean official declined to elaborate on what the differences were.

But a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said the North wants the U.S. first to show that it has permanently ceased its “hostile” policy toward Pyongyang.

“As conditions mature, (North Korea) can halt the operation of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities,” the Choson Sinbo said, referring to the site of the North's main nuclear complex north of Pyongyang.

“The (North)'s position is that it can take corresponding measures when the U.S. takes steps to show that it irreversibly gave up its hostile policy,” it said.

The report, carried on the paper's Web site, cited a “diplomatic source well versed in” the negotiations. The paper, with links to the government in Pyongyang, is considered one of the North's propaganda tools.

Any agreement on an initial set of reciprocal moves to implement a September 2005 accord – in which North Korea pledged to disarm in exchange for aid and security guarantees – would set the stage for the first tangible steps in the often-delayed six-nation process.

The 2005 deal, a broad statement of principles that did not outline any concrete steps for dismantling North Korea's nuclear program, was the only agreement since the negotiations began in 2003.

At the last session of the arms negotiations in December, following North Korea's Oct. 9 underground nuclear test, the North refused to even talk about its nuclear programs. Instead, it demanded the U.S. lift financial restrictions targeting alleged North Korean counterfeiting and money laundering.

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