The American Interest, May 12, 2016 –
Solving the offshore money-laundering and tax evasion system is easy, but the Obama Administration’s proposal isn’t the way to do it.
Stung by the Panama Papers revelations of worldwide tax evasion by the rich and powerful, President Obama has seized the moment to propose a solution guaranteed to gather headlines—and then fail. But if he wanted to, he could, through the Treasury Department, end the system of offshore tax havens with a stroke of the pen.
First, let’s look at the solution and, then, at what’s wrong with the President’s proposal.
The Obama proposal acknowledges the threat offshoring poses to our national security. Treasury estimates that $300 billion in illicit proceeds are generated annually in the United States due to financial crimes. But it then essentially ignores the powerful weapon it can wield against that threat.
Salon, Feb 24, 2016 – Betty Friedan would vote for Bernie Sanders. I say that having known Betty near the start of the women’s movement in the late ‘60s and at the end of her life. As a feminist, she was also a progressive committed to Bernie’s vision of economic justice. But I have another reason.
I knew Betty from 1969 when she brought me into the feminist movement, asking me to communicate to the media the message of feminism and of the National Organization for Women, of which she was founding president. Not an easy job in those days! From ridicule to don’t take too seriously to, well, there’s something significant happening. Rather like what Bernie has faced.
February 24, 2016 | Posted in Scoops
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The secret deals of “corruption fighter” William Browder, an offshore profit-launderer
100Reporters, May 21, 2014 – As U.S and European governments impose sanctions on bankers, businessmen and officials close to Vladimir Putin to pressure him over Crimea, the asset freezes will lead investigators not to the Kremlin alone, but to the western-built offshore system that has helped the Russian leader and friends loot their country and consolidate power.
A case – details not public before – shows how westerners – lawyers, accountants, bankers, investors—used the offshore system to facilitate and benefit from Russian corruption.
It involves William Browder (opposite), self-described anti-corruption fighter, known in Washington for winning passage of 2012 “Magnitsky Act,” which presaged current law by blocking visas, freezing assets of Russians accused of rights violations and corruption.
Browder and fellow investors stole funds diverted via an Isle of Man shell from a Russian company they controlled.
UPI (Womens eNews), March 29, 2013 –
Betty Friedan’s parting words: “We didn’t challenge the system enough.” She helped start the women’s revolution but came to realize–along with many of us–that the problem everyone faced was economic predators. It’s a point to note on the fiftieth anniversary of her groundbreaking book, “The Feminine Mystique.”
It was Labor Day weekend 2005 at the Sag Harbor, Long Island, cottage of Betty Friedan five months before her death. I’d met Friedan in mid-1969 at a small gathering of the National Organization for Women (NOW) at the Upper West Side apartment of Dolores Alexander, a reporter for Newsday. (At that time, all gatherings of NOW were small!)
Friedan was the national president of NOW and one of its founders. When she discovered I was a journalist, she asked me to be NOW’s public relations vice president. A major NOW focus was ending discrimination against women in employment. I thought that was central to changing the status of women. So I agreed.
March 29, 2013 | Posted in Scoops
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100Reporters, March 19, 2012 – One could be forgiven for thinking that the New York State Legislature was a criminal enterprise. It had its mafioso style assemblyman, Democrat Tony Seminerio, telling a prospective “client” that he would “bury” him unless he paid off.
It had entrepreneurs like Democratic Senator Pedro Espada Jr., who set up a community health operation and, prosecutors say, looted it for millions.
It even had a comical nickel-and-dime guy, Democratic Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, who sent one of his staffers driving on the New York Thruway with his E-ZPass so that McLaughlin could fake time in Albany and collect per diem payments.
New York State has rules against some of those practices, but rarely were they enforced against legislators who were collecting huge sums of cash from companies that wanted laws passed or state contracts awarded.
100Reporters, Jan 19, 2012 — Mitt Romney, who makes his hands-on business experience a talking point in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, was a member of the board of directors and audit committee of a global company when it paid millions of dollars to settle charges of extracting kickbacks that cheated clients.
The company is Marriott International and the accusers were hotel owners who had hired Marriott to manage their properties under the Marriott name.
In recent weeks, Romney has come under fire for his role at Bain Capital. But his actions as an independent director at Marriott in the late 1990s and again just two years ago open another window on the candidate’s record in business and leadership qualities.
January 19, 2012 | Posted in Corporate Abuses
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The New York Times, Dec 3, 2011 –
An increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students — a captive market — fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. At a time of fiscal austerity, these companies are seducing school administrators with promises to cut costs through privatization. Parents who want healthier meals, meanwhile, are outgunned.
Each day, 32 million children in the United States get lunch at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which uses agricultural surplus to feed children. About 21 million of these students eat free or reduced-price meals, a number that has surged since the recession. The program, which also provides breakfast, costs $13.3 billion a year.
December 4, 2011 | Posted in Scoops
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April 21, 2011 – Businessweek censored? A press release by the New York Attorney General censored? And by the organization that represents the nation’s school superintendents and principals!
Why would the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) ban letters from legislators and government officials as well as articles in several newspapers from a display table at its February National Conference on Education at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver? Thereby hangs a corporate tale.
The AASA didn’t ban the documents over the usual culture wars issues. It was to thwart distribution of training materials on how schools can avoid being ripped off by companies that provide school meals. The papers were stacked on a paid exhibit table that had been set up by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents food service workers. SEIU had also bought the right to run a workshop.
April 21, 2011 | Posted in Scoops
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The American Interest, Jan-Feb 2011 (online Dec 9, 2010)
Corporate secrecy, which involves hiding the identities of company owners from tax and other legal authorities, is itself no secret. It is well known that offshore banking centers such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands have for many years enabled fraudsters all over the world to carry out scams, launder illicit profits, stash stolen loot and hide money from tax authorities.
What most people do not know, however, is that there is a vast and growing American offshore. Foreign crooks prize states such as Nevada, Wyoming and especially Delaware for state laws that don’t require them to list owners or even company officials when a new company is formed. Corporate interests and the Obama administration are blocking congressional efforts to change that.
Barron’s, Sept 20, 2010 –
Scoop summary: Howard Jonas, CEO of U.S. telecom IDT, in an interview with Lucy Komisar, acknowledges for the first time that then Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2003 met with an IDT official during discussions about a contract to pay Haiti Teleco for calls from U.S. customers. That contract included agreement for IDT to send payments to a shell company in the offshore Turks and Caicos Islands. Jonas said IDT got an “ethics letter” from a law firm clearing the deal, but the lawyer said in a memo filed with the court, published here for the first time, that he simply told IDT to do “due diligence.” IDT signed the contract the next day.
A former IDT official, who objected to the deal, was fired and is suing the company; trial is set for Nov 9th. The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Jonas’s revelations are likely to have a major impact in the trial and investigations.
The American Interest, July-Aug 2010 (online May 18, 2010) –
As I write this, the U.S. Senate is debating a major financial reform bill in which the credit default swap, a kind of derivative, plays a significant part. An amendment to that bill, proposed by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would ban banks from proprietary trading. There are a lot of high-rolling bankers who do not want that amendment to pass, because it will mess up their plans to repatriate foreign profits into the United States, untaxed, by trading in derivatives on their own accounts. The clearinghouse ICE Trust U.S. forms a central part of these plans.
What is ICE Trust U.S., and who owns it? ICE US Holding Co., which was established in 2008 as the parent of ICE Trust U.S., is located in the Cayman Islands. Yet none of the owners of ICE US Holding Co. are based in the Caymans. Among the owners of the Cayman’s company are Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, which are headquartered in New York. Bank of America, which now owns Merrill Lynch, is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Big Money, March 11, 2010 –
When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January, IDT, the New Jersey-based global phone company, moved fast to help.
It announced it was setting up calling stations at hotels and other sites so Haitians could use its Internet calling-service to reach family and friends around the world. It cut rates on its U.S. prepaid calling-card to 2 cents a minute to Haiti (at least for 12 days), donated 4,000 $2-prepaid calling-cards to Haitian community groups in New York and Florida, and said it would give some proceeds from prepaid calls to Haitian Red Cross relief.
Such a warm, fuzzy response from a U.S. corporation often wins plaudits, though, of course, IDT has a business interest in the impoverished island. In 2005, in its latest publicly available figures, the company reported $4 million in profits from $17 million in revenues for routing calls there.
portfolio.com, March 8, 2010 –
One year ago, a group of financial institutions quietly launched ICE Trust, a new and theoretically safer way to trade derivatives, a key element of the financial crisis. As lawmakers debate reform, banks at the center of the storm are remaking the market—and stand to profit.
As the financial crisis exploded with full force in 2008, it was obvious that something was gravely wrong with the huge, unregulated market for derivatives.
Lehman Brothers had $738 billion of these contracts—which are based on the value of some other asset, such as a stock or a bond or a hog belly—on its books when it failed on September 14, 2008.
Lehman certainly wasn’t alone. Over the next few months, insurer AIG reported as much as $53.5 billion of derivatives losses—losses that were linked to nearly one third of its $182.5 billion federal
Inter Press Service (IPS), Feb 3, 2010 –
The global bank HSBC may be running offshore accounts for central banks. According to a U.S. Senate investigation, an HSBC subsidiary in London called HSBC Equator Bank had a sister bank in the Bahamas.
According to an internal e-mail, the bank told HSBC USA it had been providing offshore accounts to central banks for 20 years, because the banks wanted to avoid “Mareva” injunctions, legally enforceable orders to freeze funds.
Oct 22, 2009 –
Back in 2004, when Chris Christie was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, his office first heard allegations that IDT Corporation, a Newark, N.J.-based global telecommunications company, was involved in a case of international bribery. No federal criminal case was ever brought against IDT, in contrast to several successful federal prosecutions in similar cases elsewhere. The company is run by James Courter, a former Republican congressman from New Jersey.
Fast forward to the present, and Christie is now the Republican candidate for the governor of New Jersey. And, an examination of campaign finance records shows, Christie has thus far racked up $26,800 in campaign contributions – earning him a total of $80,400 including state matching funds — from 27 individuals who could have a direct interest in the IDT case.
Inter Press Service (IPS), July 14, 2009 – At a recent conference in Miami organised by Offshore Alert, a specialised media organisation focused on financial crime, IPS sat down with veteran investigator Bob Roach to discuss the hurdles facing regulators trying to crack down on tax havens, which cost the U.S. alone an estimated 100 billion dollars annually.
State aided suspect in huge swindle
Miami Herald, July 5, 2009 –
Winner of second place for Business News, the National Headliner Awards
Years before his banking empire was shut down in a massive fraud case, Allen Stanford swept into Florida with a bold plan: entice Latin Americans to pour millions into his ventures — in secrecy.
From a bayfront office in Miami in 1998, he planned to sell investments to customers and send their money to Antigua.
But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from an unlikely ally: The state of Florida would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore — without reporting a penny to regulators. He got it.
Inter Press Service (IPS), May 8, 2009
– Jeffrey Owens, the tax “point person” of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), was stung by activist critics of the OECD standards under which countries will be put on a tax haven blacklist and targeted for sanctions.
The blacklist was announced last month at the London meeting of the G20, which said in a communiqué that it would “take action against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens…to deploy sanctions to protect our public finances and financial systems.”
Key civil society criticisms are that the OECD standards require bilateral agreements for information on request, not automatic multilateral tax information exchange; that they call for only 12 such agreements to be signed by each tax haven; and that getting off the blacklist entails only promises, which have not been kept by tax havens in the past.
Inter Press Service (IPS), April 30, 2009 – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is hitting pay dirt with a novel legal tactic designed to catch tax evaders. And it’s going to use it to force international banks to give up the names of tax cheats. It’s called the “John Doe” summons. Using “John Doe” means the IRS doesn’t know the names of the suspected tax evaders. So it sends a summons to a bank or credit card company that says, “Give us the names and account information of all your U.S. clients with secret offshore accounts.” Daniel Reeves, an IRS agent in charge of the tax agency’s offshore compliance initiative, afforded an unusual look into the broad swath of projects that seek tax-cheating “John Doe’s” every place from accounts of the giant Swiss bank UBS to the records of Pay Pal.
Inter Press Service (IPS), March 29, 2009 –
This could be the moment when a fatal blow is delivered to the world’s tax havens. Or it could be another largely cosmetic change that allows offshore financial centres such as Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Liechtenstein to deflect attacks on the system by sacrificing the few tax miscreants that governments catch in their nets.
Decisions at the G20 government leaders meeting in London Apr. 2 will set the direction.
Offshore centres, worried what may happen in London, are falling all over themselves promising to cooperate with the major powers on the trail of tax cheats. But the holes in the tax havens’ promises are as big as those in Switzerland’s famous cheese.
Many believe that automatic exchange of information is the only really effective way to end pandemic tax evasion. Some very good proposals are made in a leaked French paper which is linked to the full story.
AlterNet, March 26, 2009 –
Congress has deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse, which will make a few million in bonuses seem like peanuts.
Most legislators at a House Finance subcommittee hearing last week deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse. Instead, they homed in on the public relations disaster of hundreds of top AIG officials and staff getting $165 million (later revealed as over $218 million) in bonuses.
The key issue ignored by the congressmen and women was the potential catastrophe represented by as much as $2.7 trillion in AIG derivative contracts and how AIG and the U.S. government are dealing with them. To put that number in context, we’ve so far provided the company only about $170 billion.
How food-service providers like Sodexo bilk millions from taxpayers and customers
In These Times, March 2009 –
The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute provided generous support for this article.
At the end of the 2006 school year, children’s nutrition advocate Dorothy Brayley had a disturbing conversation with a local dairy representative. He had come to her office to discuss participation in the summer trade show of food providers she runs as director of Kids First Rhode Island.
At the time, the state’s schools were buying 100,000 containers of milk each week. The salesman for Garelick Farms, New England’s largest dairy, told Brayley that Sodexo—a food and facility management corporation that managed most of the state’s school lunch programs—was paying Garelick more than competitors in order to get a bigger rebate.
That’s just a taste of the hundreds of millions of dollars of “rebates”—or kickbacks from suppliers—that Sodexo, a $20 billion-a-year global leader in the food and facility management industry, has taken while operating cafeterias and other facilities for schools, hospitals, universities, government agencies, the military and private companies across the country, according to evidence provided by whistleblowers and internal company documents.
Inter Press Service (IPS), Feb 5, 2009 –
President Barack Obama said he would crack down on firms that use offshore centres to evade taxes. He could begin with a New York subsidiary of one of the world’s largest private banks, which used a Cayman Islands company to shift its profits.
Why would a New York investment fund manager run operations through an office in the Caymans? “This type of structure is for optimising taxes,” explained Max Obrist, a Cayman Islands official of the global Julius Baer Group (Zurich).
He told IPS that “generating” the income where a company was actually based, “you would pay much more taxes”. Obrist was describing a company shifting claimed earnings to tax havens to evade home taxes. He allegedly helped Julius Baer Investment Management (JBIM) New York do just that.
Inter Press Service (IPS), Jan 19, 2009 –
U.S. Senators at Timothy Geithner’s confirmation hearing for Treasury Secretary Wednesday may want to ask him about a failure to act that is costing the U.S. a lot more than the amount he evaded on taxes.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which he has led since 2003, conducts the operations on Wall Street of the Federal Reserve in Washington, the country’s central bank.
The New York Fed under Geithner’s presidency has failed to stop massive naked short selling of U.S. Treasury bonds that threatens the stability of the market and sale of the bonds.
Ironically, the scam, enabled by a lack of regulation at the behest of Wall Street brokerage houses, makes it more expensive for the U.S. to bail out those same financial institutions.
Evening Standard (London), Jan 6, 2009
Gordon Brown and Barack Obama are both promising to crack down on the use of offshore tax havens. But putting those tough words into practice is another matter.
One of the world’s biggest private wealth management groups circulates funds via offices in the Cayman Islands, claiming they take major investment decisions — when the main work is apparently carried out in London.
With offices in London and across the globe, Swiss-based Julius Baer banking group invests over $300 billion (£208 billion) in assets on behalf of institutions and wealthy individuals. Profits in 2007 were more than $1.1 billion.
In London, one of its units was known as Julius Baer Investors or Julius Baer Investment Management (JBIM) until a management buyout in 2007. It was renamed Augustus Asset Managers, is based in Bevis Marks in the City, and is still 10% owned by Julius Baer.
From London, Augustus controls assets of $12 billion but claims its profits are generated elsewhere, offshore at a Cayman Islands Baer subsidiary called Baer Select Management.
Why? Simple, really. “If you would generate all the income in London, you would pay much more taxes,” acknowledged Max Obrist, a Cayman Islands executive of Julius Baer.