Pamplin College of Business students had a recent opportunity to quiz Apple’s global tax director as well as the retired president and chief operating officer of former information services provider ChoicePoint on how taxes affect business transactions.

During a visit to campus, Phillip Bullock, the Apple executive, and Douglas Curling, the retired executive from ChoicePoint (now part of Reed Elsevier), responded to a series of questions prepared by students in the Tax Impact on Decisions course taught by accounting and information systems professor Bryan Cloyd.

“Efficient tax planning requires joint consideration of both tax and non-tax factors that can affect a firm’s future cash flow,” Cloyd said. “Getting it right not only requires technical competence — it also requires a tremendous amount of business experience and judgment.”

The forum was “a great opportunity for some of our accounting students to learn from two of our department’s most successful alumni,” Cloyd said.

“Bullock is a key member of the management team at the world’s most valuable company, while Curling was instrumental in building ChoicePoint through more than 60 acquisitions of other technology companies, before it was acquired by Reed Elsevier in 2008 for more than $4 billion.”

The questions raised during the 90-minute event covered a range of topics: tax avoidance and public relations, corporate influence on public policy, executive compensation, corporate tax reform, and mergers and acquisitions.

The students submitted papers summarizing what they learned from the speakers. They included many appreciative comments about the presentation, such as the following three examples:

  • “Both Mr. Curling and Mr. Bullock gave powerful and thought-provoking insights into the effects of taxes on business and what it really means to be an expert in mergers and acquisitions.”
  • “Being able to hear successful alumni and listen to their knowledge and experience is not only helpful for educational purposes. It is encouraging to me because it shows just how good of an education we are getting. Seeing successful alumni in person gives more meaning rather than just hearing or reading about them.”
  • “I couldn’t help but think about how impressive these men are with their backgrounds and experience … it excites me to think of everything the future holds for me and my classmates.”

Bullock earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1986. Before joining Apple in 2012, he worked at Symantec Corp., where his positions included chief accounting officer, vice president of tax and trade compliance, and senior vice president of finance. He began his professional career at Ernst & Young, where he became a tax partner.

Curling earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1976 and a master’s degree in accounting in 1977. He now heads the mergers and acquisitions practice of New Kent Consulting. He has held a variety of finance and technology positions at Equifax, RJR Nabisco, Del Monte Foods, and Ernst & Young.

Their presentation was part of Pamplin’s Tech Talks Business series, aimed at providing smaller groups of students opportunities to learn directly from Virginia Tech alumni who are business professionals.

The event was hosted by another Pamplin accounting alumnus, James Hatch, who chairs the advisory board of the accounting and information systems department. Bullock and Curling both serve on the board, which held its annual spring meeting and awards banquet on May 1.