Smith recently agreed to pay $140M in a tax evasion case.
Billionaire Robert Smith made his first public appearance at the New York Times DealBook Summit in New York on Wednesday.
Smith, who recently agreed to pay $140M in to settle an investigation into his taxes opened up to his fellow panelists at the event, admitting he made a mistake by his failure to file accurate tax returns.
During the virtual Race and Corporate America panel he said, “A big part of life is that if you make mistakes you have to in some way clarify them, clear them up and get beyond them,” said Smith per Axios. “I can learn from my mistakes and I have. In order to focus on the problems of the present I need to resolve the issues of the past and the settlement offered me the opportunity to do that.”
Rapper and activist Killer Mike was also apart of the panel, along with former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, and he chimed in on Smith’s comments.
“People make mistakes … Never forget that this country was founded by people who didn’t want to pay taxes to a crown,” Mike said. “Let us never forget that our forefathers … were slave owners.”
Smith is chairman of Vista Equity Partners and one of the few Black billionaires in the US. The Denver, Colorado native started out on Wall Street, then founded his own private equity firm.
He is the richest Black man in America, and the third richest Black man in the world, according to Forbes.
“When I left my post at Goldman Sachs just after we had gone public to set up a private equity firm called Vista Equity Partners … my mentors and colleagues at Goldman thought I had lost it,” he said in a 2016 commencement speech at American University.
By 2019. he was successful enough that he promised to pay off the remaining loan balances for the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College and their parents when he gave the commencement speech there. The generosity is said to have cost him $34M.
During the panel, Killer Mike also had this to say in regards to Smith’s case.
“Let us never forget the sins of our past because, when you do, you start to judge people as if your moral authority is higher. As hard as it may be to forgive a rich guy, he did what he did at Morehouse before that.”
Killer Mike continues, “What he did for Morehouse wasn’t, ‘Let me clean my image back up,’ it was his honest and true heart. So I just want to tell Black people: Defend him vigorously.”
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