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Robert F. Smith, the billionaire investor who pledged to pay off the student debt of Morehouse College's graduating class last year, is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible tax crimes.


Smith is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of the private equity and venture capital firm Vista Equity Partners, which has an office in downtown Austin.

Bloomberg reported Friday that federal authorities have spent four years examining whether Smith failed to pay taxes on about $200 million in assets by moving them through offshore accounts.

Smith is trying to resolve the case with a civil settlement, according to Bloomberg, but if convicted he could be sentenced to prison and forced out of his firm.

Smith's profile has increased in the last few years. He married his second wife, former Playmate of the Year Hope Dworacyzk, in 2015, and became the first Black American to sign the Giving Pledge, a campaign founded by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to get billionaires to pledge at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

In May of 2019, Smith gave the commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically black men's college in Atlanta, and announced he would pay off the student loans of the roughly 400 graduates.

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Two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Texas' first confirmed case of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will rescind statewide pandemic restrictions, including business capacity limits and mask mandates, next week. Although businesses—especially those tied to the hospitality industry—have suffered financially over the last year, many Austin establishments are rejecting Abbott's order.

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(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.

Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.

A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.

Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."

She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."

That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."

Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.

Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.

Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.

Two hours after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that state mandates on wearing masks and limiting business capacities would be lifted, Mayor Steve Adler wrote a letter to the city urging residents to keep their masks on and stay safe.

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