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Former Viacom executive files suit alleging tax fraud

washingtonpost.com | January 7, 2016

Ex-Viacom executive alleges tax fraud

A former vice president of Viacom is suing the media company after she said it fired her for opposing a plan to illegally avoid paying U.S. taxes on the international licensing rights for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Nataki Williams said she was fired in April 2014 while on maternity leave, after Viacom ignored her objections to its plan the previous year to transfer Ninja Turtles rights to a Netherlands-based entity solely to avoid the U.S. tax burden. Williams said the licensing work was handled in New York, but Viacom arranged for minor work to be done in the Netherlands to make it appear as though the contracts were handled there.

Williams also said Viacom planned for the Netherlands entity to buy rights to other children’s characters, such as Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, in a scheme that her bosses allegedly said could save millions of dollars.

Williams said she was fired as vice president for financial planning and analysis on the pretext that her benefits paperwork wrongly listed her child’s father, also named Williams, as a spouse. She said Viacom caused that error.

In a statement, Viacom said Williams was fired for “fraudulently claiming company benefits to which she was not entitled. Her legal claims are completely without merit, and we will vigorously defend against these claims in court.”

Williams sued under the federal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank laws.

 

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