They’re Wyly, Alright

August 27th, 2010

The Wyly Brothers (spelled w-y-l-y, though it might as well be spelled w-i-l-y), have broken their long silence.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the recent suit brought against Samuel and Charles Wyly by the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The SEC believes the brothers have reaped $550 million in undisclosed gains, and hid the money in a series of channels through the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands, two of the world’s most infamous tax havens.

I theorized these men had a bad case of the egos.  This is an especially dangerous trait when it’s coupled with a little intelligence and a lot of money.

And after years of keeping mum on their alleged and various frauds, the Wyly brothers bore all (to The Atlantic from the resort town of Aspen) and what they’ve bore is not pretty.  Sam Wyly told the reporter: “I can tell you one thing.  They gonna lose.  They gonna get nothing.”  He also observed that “beating up on rich people” is “good politics” and that he almost never thinks about the lawsuit because “worse has happened.”

“Really?”  I wanted to scream upon reading that.  “Do you really believe that?”

I think he probably does.

But here’s the thing.  Sam Wyly’s comments reveal more than an unflatteringly inflated ego.  They also show a defiant man who has set himself apart from the rest of the world.

Perhaps this is the problems with wealth.  Money can buy many things—and this often includes a new set of rules.   But the new rules should not include the tax code.  That should be the same for everyone.

Leona Helmsley—a billionaire New York City hotel operator who evaded millions in taxes—once was heard saying “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

Helmsley, dubbed the “Queen of Mean” for her tyrannical behavior, was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to 16 years behind bars.  She was ordered to report to prison on April 15th, which was tax day.  Apparently that judge had an ironic sense of humor.

The Wyly brothers should take note.  The truth is, as much the wealthy can feel above the rules—or above the law—I firmly believe much of the world is not putting up with it.  I realize the problem is vast and deep, but I also firmly believe rude awakenings are in store.

Written by Ann Hollingshead

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