IRS chief counsel under Trump admin joins Gibson Dunn

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building is seen in Washington, U.S. September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

(Reuters) - Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher on Monday announced it has tapped Michael Desmond, whose successful nomination to serve as chief counsel of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was reportedly a personal priority for former President Donald Trump.

Desmond is joining Gibson Dunn as a partner in its Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., offices. He cited the firm's litigation and tax practices as big draws.

"The combination of those two practices had a lot of attraction and appeal for me," Desmond said, adding that he's always regarded himself as being a litigator or trial attorney despite his tax focus.

He also has personal ties to the firm, namely a longtime friendship with Eric Sloan, the co-chair of Gibson Dunn's tax practice group. In a statement, Sloan praised Desmond as a "luminary in the field of tax controversy."

Desmond served as chief IRS counsel from 2019 to 2021. The New York Times reported in April 2019 that Trump had asked then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to prioritize Desmond's confirmation vote, but Desmond said Monday that his nomination was not put on any fast track, noting that it took the Senate nearly a year to confirm him after he was nominated in March 2018.

As the Times reported, Trump was resisting calls to release his tax returns to Congress as Desmond's nomination was pending. Desmond declined to comment on the former president's tax returns, but he said he had hoped to start sooner at the IRS than he did due to the chief counsel's role in implementing the tax code changes that were enacted by Congress through the 2017 tax cuts.

"I was anxious to get started," Desmond said, adding that he oversaw the publication of more than 100 sets of proposed and final regulations relating to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Prior to joining the Trump administration, Desmond ran his own law firm for more than six years and was also a partner at the now-shuttered Bingham McCutchen.

Working at the IRS "changed my mindset and perspective on what my practice could benefit from," he said, noting he'll be able to represent more businesses and tackle cross-border matters too.

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.