Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin sued the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday, citing “unlawful disclosure” of his tax information.
In a complaint filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, the 54-year-old founder and CEO of the investing firm Citadel, accuses the IRS of violating “legal obligations to safeguard and protect his information from unauthorized disclosure,” and willfully and intentionally failing to “establish appropriate administrative, technical or physical safeguards” over its record system.
Starting in June 2021, in an unusual breach of tax return confidentiality, tax data about some of the richest Americans including Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk were released by ProPublica. The news organization published articles mentioning Griffin and using information from his tax records in April 2022 and July 2022.
In one April story, the outlet reported Griffin had the fourth-highest income in the country between 2013 and 2018, according to the data. He reported an average annual income of nearly $1.7 billion. Griffin paid a tax rate of 29.2% during these years, “a higher rate than many of his hedge fund manager peers but significantly lower than the top marginal income tax rate of around 40%,” ProPublica reported.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in 2021 investigating the leak would be a top priority, but no formal charges have been filed.
Any unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information by a person with access is illegal.
The 23-page lawsuit cites willful or grossly negligent unauthorized disclosure and claims the disclosure of Griffin’s tax return information to ProPublica was not “requested by the taxpayer.”
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As a result, it continues, Griffin is entitled to punitive damages totaling at least $1,000 per unlawful disclosure and attorneys’ fees.
It is not exactly known how the tax data reached ProPublica.
“It is unacceptable that government officials have failed to thoroughly investigate this unlawful theft of confidential and personal information,” Griffin told USA TODAY Wednesday. “Americans expect our government to uphold the laws of our nation when it comes to our private and personal information – whether it be tax returns or health care records.”
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The suit, which demands a jury trial, cites a series of inspector general reports dating back more than a decade showing gaps in IRS information security.
Griffin recently outbid crypto investors for an ultra-rare copy of the Constitution (bidding $43 million), and owns the largest estate on Florida’s Palm Beach Island. The property sits a quarter mile south of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
Griffin told the Chicago Tribune in 2012 that he believed the government was “way too involved” in the country’s financial system following the Great Recession and that he backs candidates who support more limited government. He said the ultrawealthy had “insufficient influence” on the political process and had a duty to be more engaged.
Contributing: Donovan Slack, Rachel Looker and Javier Zarracina, USA TODAY
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
Story Credit: usatoday.com