Surrounded by some of the biggest pieces of equipment man has ever made, Caterpillar could not hide from its recent run-in with the IRS on Tuesday afternoon.
During the opening day of ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby faced a hard line of questioning from the press regarding the IRS's raid at the equipment manufacturer's headquarters in Peoria, Ill., last week. Umpleby said he was surprised by the visit.
"We had been cooperating with authorities, and we are cooperating with authorities," said Umpleby. "We look forward to a resolution of these matters. We are Caterpillar. We have been in business for almost 100 years. We are an honorable company. We live by a code of conduct and a set of core values and if something appears to violate that code we take appropriate action."
Umpleby refused to speculate on what the outcome will be with the IRS. According to the Peoria Journal Star, the investigation is the result of revelations about the company's tax strategy which was revealed during a 2009 federal wrongful termination lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Caterpillar moved profits overseas and to offshore shell companies to avoid paying almost $2 billion in U.S. taxes.
"We take our responsibilities very seriously in complying with the laws around the world," Umpleby said at ConExpo. "We do the right thing and will continue to do the right thing."
Caterpillar is still facing a global market full of uncertainty, but Umpleby said the company is seeing positive signs in some of the markets, including the U.S. China also may be priming up for a comeback. The Asian market has shown signs of improving over the last six months, but Caterpillar's optimism is still guarded.
"There are still a lot of remaining uncertainties as to how long the pro growth policies from the government will last and to what extent the improvement of the China industry we are seeing here will actually continue throughout the full year," said Bob DeLange, Group President of Construction Industries for Caterpillar.