(Bloomberg) President Barack Obama nominated Cono Namorato, a Washington defense attorney and former government lawyer, to serve as the top U.S. tax prosecutor amid probes of HSBC Holdings Plc and dozens of Swiss banks.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Namorato, 72, would become assistant attorney general over the Justice Department’s tax division, where he would lead more than 300 criminal and civil lawyers overseeing investigations and litigation. Namorato must set priorities even as the Internal Revenue Service, the division’s main investigative partner, faces funding cutbacks.

Division lawyers are negotiating with dozens of Swiss banks that entered a disclosure program to avoid prosecution for helping Americans evade taxes. More than 100 Swiss banks signed up for the program in 2013, seeking an end to a seven-year U.S. probe of the world’s largest offshore tax haven.

The division also has spent years investigating HSBC, the biggest U.K. lender, and how it helped Americans evade taxes. Several HSBC clients were convicted of tax crimes.

In 2011, the IRS sought a judge’s permission to seek data on thousands of Americans who may have used HSBC accounts in India to evade taxes. A year earlier, the IRS got data on U.S. accounts that was stolen from HSBC’s private bank in Geneva by Herve Falciani.

Namorato, a native of Brooklyn, New York, graduated summa cum laude from Iona College and worked for several years as an IRS special agent while he attended Brooklyn Law School at night.

Justice Department
He spent a decade in the Justice Department’s tax division in Washington, rising to chief of the criminal section and deputy assistant attorney general over criminal tax enforcement.

In 1978, Namorato joined the Washington firm of Caplin & Drysdale, representing corporations and individuals in criminal probes, civil examinations and voluntary disclosures. He has worked at the firm since then, except for a two-year stint from 2004 to 2006, when he was director of the Office of Professional Responsibility at the IRS.

Namorato will fill the post held by Kathryn Keneally from April 2012 to last June. She later joined DLA Piper as a partner in New York.

“Cono Namorato is the perfect choice to head the Tax Division,” Keneally said in an e-mailed statement. “He is a brilliant lawyer, and will be a strong, effective and fair leader.”

The tax division investigates identity theft, illegal tax shelters and other crimes, while approving every tax case filed by the 93 U.S. attorneys around the country.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access