Ex-AG Porrino says incentive task force still has long road ahead

Chris Porrino. (File photos)

While many were stunned by the shocking allegations from a whistleblower that a large corporation intentially failed to comply with state tax incentive rules, former New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino warns it is too early to draw any conclusions about how the ongoing Tax Incentive Task Force hearings will go.

His advice, put simply, is for businesses to check all their documentation and own up to any noncompliance with any of the tax incentive programs overseen by the Economic Development Authority.

“No good ever comes from the government finding it out for you,” Porrino, now chair of the Litigation Department at Lowenstein Sandler, said.

“Our clients have heeded it, and I hope other businesses do, too. I don’t think we can draw any definitive conclusions from the testimony of one person. I think the message the task force is sending is this is the kind of thing they are looking for.”

And how the task force is able to handle any findings, as well as who gets the blame, remains to be seen.

While Porrino couldn’t discuss what he saw during his time as AG, he did say that, previously, as a defense attorney, whistleblower cases like the one against tax preparation service Jackson Hewitt would come up from time to time.

“As a defense lawyer, I would see, occasionally, inquiries from the AG’s office of potential clawbacks and things like that, so I think that’s an undertaking that they had pursued from time to time, so I don’t think the concept is new,” he said. “Obviously, much more attention is being paid now.”

Porrino added that, while 20 lobbying firms have been identified by the task force, it is unclear what their level of exposure in the alleged fraud is.

One thing is for certain: The hearings are going to have the attention of the entire business community as they proceed.

“I can tell you from having been on both sides of an investigation, the one thing investigations are not is brief — they’re long and expensive,” Porrino said.

He estimates the results of the investigation by the task force may not be known for more than a year.

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