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.
China is the major international power blocking a global solution to the offshore bank and secrecy problem. It is doing so because of its own secrecy jurisdiction, Hong Kong, says José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission.
He said some countries hadn’t been reacting positively to efforts to change the system , to establish a level playing field.
After the meeting, I asked him why the major financial powers hadn’t been able to achieve a solution. He said the problem was “China, because of Hong Kong.”
June 30, 2010 – Last night I accepted a Gerald Loeb award trophy for the Allen Stanford investigation. The Loeb awards are the highest honors in U.S. financial journalism. I and my colleagues, Miami Herald reporters Michael Sallah and Rob Barry, won in the category of “medium & small newspapers.” The prize submission was entitled “Keys to the Kingdom: How State Regulators Enabled a $7 Billion Ponzi Scheme.”
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 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.
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.
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.