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Ex-head of 5th largest US accounting firm turns to Mysore LPO

Praveen Bose  |  Chennai/ Bangalore 

In the latest example of how legal outsourcing in India can make a US legal defence more financially viable, Denis Field, former chairman and CEO of the US-based accounting major BDO Seidman, LLP, has hired the Mysore-based SDD Global Solutions, a legal process outsourcing arm of New York-based Smith-Dehn LLP, to assist him and his US legal team in his legal battle with the US government. BDO is the world’s fifth largest accounting firm.

In order to effectively pursue his case, Field is joining the ranks of prominent US clients who have discovered an alternative to surrendering to their inability to fund a full and complete legal defence. He and his US lawyers are fighting for his rights with the help of legal outsourcing in India.

By hiring SDD Global Solutions for certain tasks, Field and his team are able to cut his legal costs by a significant percentage for complex and high-end legal work. While in the US it costs $250-300 per hour to do the same work, it would cost $30-90 per hour in India, according to industry analysts.

Field is a defendant in a federal criminal prosecution against him and others for his marketing of allegedly illegal tax shelters while he was at BDO. He is also involved in litigation against BDO, seeking to require BDO to pay his legal fees.

In his criminal matter, Field recently filed a motion seeking discovery and a hearing regarding his claim that the IRS and the US Department of Justice unconstitutionally interfered with BDO’s obligation to pay his legal fees.

In 2000, at 41, Field became the youngest partner ever to be elected chairman and CEO of BDO, founded 100 years ago. Field had served as the head of the firm’s tax practice. His success had even led industry consultant Allan D Koltin, CEO of PDI Global, to note in contemporaneous press reports that, “Denis Field is such a significant person at BDO; he’s the equivalent of Bill Gates at Microsoft.”

In 2002, however, legal trouble brewed at the firm when the IRS began to investigate tax shelter transactions designed and facilitated by a number of accounting firms, including BDO and KPMG. After the government’s prosecution of Arthur Andersen in the unrelated Enron scandal, which resulted in Arthur Andersen’s collapse, the pressure on BDO caused panic among the BDO board. This led to the board distancing itself from the executives involved in the transactions the IRS was targeting. Foremost among these executives was Denis Field, whom the government accuses of diverting billions of dollars from tax coffers.

“The importance of Field’s present arguments go well beyond his own situation; they may impact other defendants in similar situations who lack the resources to seek redress,” said Russell Smith, president, SDD Global Solutions.

Field is said to have been influenced by prominent cases as Doe vs. HBO in Los Angeles, a libel suit in which SDD Global handled nearly all the research and drafting for the defence, leading to a victory; and NMH vs. Bush, in which SDD Global drafted a motion to dismiss a suit in Washington DC against legal outsourcing. SDD Global’s clients have included major film and TV studios, law firms, retail brands, insurance companies, film and television production companies, and publishing houses, as well as prominent individuals, like Mohamed Al Fayed.

For Field and his attorneys at the New York law firm of Kostelanetz & Fink, LLP, it is not an example of shipping jobs overseas, but of assisting in making US litigation financially more feasible. SDD Global will help Field’s attorneys mount a defense that might not otherwise be possible because of the high costs of US litigation and the client’s limited resources.

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First Published: Sat, July 10 2010. 00:24 IST