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In conversation with Eileen Liu

Executive Compensation & Employee Share Schemes, Taxation
Eileen Liu 1

Eileen Liu, a lawyer in Arnold Bloch Leibler's market leading taxation practice, recently represented the firm at the Global Equity Organization’s annual conference in Nashville, where a world-first report that she was involved in producing was launched. Eileen is a member of the GEO’s Australian chapter committee and was joint recipient of the GEO Star Award in 2023 for her contributions.


You worked with partner Shaun Cartoon to initiate the first ever global ranking survey of employee share plans and represented the firm recently at the Global Equity Organization’s annual conference in the US, where the survey report was launched. Can you tell us how the idea for the survey came about and what it was like to mix with, and present to, experts from around the world.

Shaun had the idea of working with the Global Equity Organization and the international equity compensation community, to establish a kind of “ESS Olympics” to determine which countries are world leaders in ESS and which countries would benefit from introducing reforms to their local regulatory and tax systems to increase the desirability of operating ESS in their jurisdictions.

Everyone came on board with the idea, and I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the resulting report, the first ever global ESS ranking study, at the GEO conference in Nashville in April. It was a great experience and a definite career highlight for me as a lawyer so far. Not only was it super interesting to see how the use of equity incentives differs between countries, but also how different tax professionals – lawyers, accountants, academics, corporate issuers and plan administrators – attending the conference looked at ESS through different lenses. 

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Your practice covers a broad range of tax issues, but you have developed a particular interest in employee taxes and share schemes. What draws you to these areas?

Because ABL’s tax practice does quite a lot of ESS and broader employment tax work, I was given the opportunity early on in my career to be part of it. ESS are a tool for businesses to attract, retain and motivate staff by allowing them to share in the growth and success of the enterprise.  I like that in the ESS space, ABL’s client base includes clients on all parts of that growth journey, from start ups, to established private companies, listed companies and institutional companies.  I really enjoy helping to plan and design that journey.  It’s a privilege to follow a company from its early stages, to when they make their mark, and then to an exit, and to see their employees have the opportunity to build generational wealth.


You began your career in one of the big international accounting firms. What made you decide to transition to Arnold Bloch Leibler?

Big accounting firms are very big places. It was important to me to be exposed to a broad range of matters as a junior and I liked that in ABL’s tax team, you have the benefit of working with pre-eminent lawyers but also working in a relatively small team, which naturally means that you get exposed to more diverse work.

Tax is a very technical area, and I find that I understand technical concepts better when I can contextualise where my work fits in the broader legal framework – ABL’s cross practice team approach facilitates this, both in terms of the subject matter we’re grappling with for clients and the type of work, which encompasses advice, transactions, disputes, public interest and policy submissions.


You’ve also presented on ESS policies and practices to expert audiences in Australia. How have these opportunities, coming quite early in your career, influenced your development as a lawyer?

The opportunity to present at industry events for The Tax Institute, Employee Ownership Australia and events run at ABL has helped me sharpen my communication skills but probably the best part for me has been fielding questions from different stakeholders, including clients, colleagues and other tax and employment professionals. It’s given me a far broader perspective on how people think and what they care about, and that lens is invaluable when I’m formulating advice to give to clients.

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