Tax Law & Order

Ah, summer, when screenplay-ready drama emerges from the investment banking industry. Last summer, it was CNBC's Mike Huckman, who, in a scrappy burst of journalistic energy not often seen during the analyst-stroking bubble years, chased Salomon's Jack Grubman into the street (Fifth Avenue) seeking comments on the breaking MCI Worldcom fiasco. And we all know how that turned out (hint: his kids are now at P.S. 6).

This year, it's not street theater, but courtroom drama. At stake is a $56 million tax bill, not an eyebrow-raising amount by i-banking standards. But it's everything, if market reversals leave your entire net worth sitting well within the $112 million spread of the court's decision. And it's even more everything if the star is not a mere Master of the Universe, but An Architect of the Universe itself, Dr Myron Scholes.

MBA's have the Black-Scholes model for pricing options burned into our heads. In hyperbolic shorthand (this is for a screenplay, remember?), Black-Scholes made modern capital markets possible, creating the common language of risk and return. Grubman's a cog in the machine. Scholes helped define. For all the good that'll do him. In a NYTimes article that'd make Dick Wolf proud, David Cay Johnston tells of The Architect's encounter on the stand with a crack federal prosecutor.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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first published: July 14, 2003.

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