Howard Stern in hot water over IRS call.

This is intriguing. I mean, my first-response answer was ‘nothing should happen to the Howard Stern show.’  But when I think about it, that’s not really the right answer, is it?

In a fact pattern worthy of a law school exam question, an IRS employee calls the Howard Stern Show and is put on hold. The IRS employee on a different line, apparently either using fat fingers on a conference call feature, or on a speakerphone, takes a call from a taxpayer while on hold with Stern. The Howard Stern Show then picks up, hears the IRS employee talking with the taxpayer and puts the nearly hour-long conversation on the air live. The law school question is … in how many ways might the Howard Stern Show be civilly and criminally liable?

Via TaxProf Blog. I mean, it’s fairly clear that the IRS is hosed. They’re supposed to keep taxpayer information confidential, and that’s hard to do when your employees are calling up shock-jock radio programs and then keeping the line open. And the Howard Stern Show’s basic problem here is that they deliberately decided to broadcast the telephone call. It’s not their fault that they heard the call, but it is their fault that it got put on the public airwaves.

Be interesting to see what the lawyers do with this one.


  • Aetius451AD says:

    This is what happens when you do not have anyone saying “Could anything bad happen if we did this? How could this hurt us?” Seems to be a lot of that going around.

    My guess is they figured the liability would all be on the IRS end.

  • Brian Swisher says:

    Hosing the IRS is no bad thing.

  • Roy Lofquist says:

    “Be interesting to see what the lawyers do with this one.”

    Same thing they always do – run up the billable hours.

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