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Sam Wyly Considered Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Because he loved his money more than his country?
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Photo by Sean McCormick
Sam Wyly (photo: Sean McCormick)

Dallas (former?) billionaire Sam Wyly is in the midst of a bankruptcy trial in U.S. District Court. He and his sister-in-law Dee declared bankruptcy in 2014 after a judge found Sam and his late brother Charles liable to the tune of $229 million for federal securities violations involving offshore trusts.

The headlining revelation from today’s hearing in the case is that Wyly considered giving up his U.S. citizenship in the hopes of avoiding tax obligations:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Holly Church started her cross-examination of Sam Wyly on Monday by reminding the witness that he testified last week how much he loves America and even cited the Boy Scout oath and its loyalty pledge to the country.

“Isn’t it true that you considered renouncing your citizenship?” Church asked.

“That’s not true,” Wyly responded.

Church then introduced into evidence emails and memos between the Wylys’ office manager and the family’s business lawyers in February 2004.

“Sam really wants us to explore what happens if he is not a U.S. citizen,” Keeley Hennington, manager of the Wyly family office, wrote in an email to lawyers.

The next day, the lawyers sent the Wylys a memo stating that the IRS would view attempts by Wyly to expatriate as an effort to avoid taxes.

Based on what Joseph Guinto reported in a February 2013 D Magazine story, perhaps Wyly would have sought Confederate citizenship instead?

“Ah, but this is more my style,” [Sam Wyly] says, as he leads me away from the dining table, through a corridor, past a study, and to a landing at the top of yet another stairwell. There he points to a framed tattered flag that bears a resemblance to the Stars and Stripes. Sam lets out a high-pitched giggle, the one that often punctuates his speech, and he asks mischievously, “Would you have ever guessed that this is a Confederate flag?”

It’s a battle flag that was flown by a Texas infantry regiment in the Civil War. Sam’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Edward Sparrow, was a Confederate senator who fought with Louisiana regiments. He also built a plantation called Arlington, which the family still owns. It’s where Sam married Cheryl, his third wife, in 1994.

On the wall of Sam’s office, which lies just beyond the stairwell with the Confederate battle flag, there hangs a photograph of the couple posing in front of Arlington. And in the couple’s home on Beverly Drive in Highland Park, there’s a painting they commissioned called Moonlight and Magnolias, in which they are seen dancing at Arlington during a Civil War-era ball. They are wearing Gone With the Wind garb—she in a hoop skirt, he in the gray uniform of a Confederate general.

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