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Jul
14

A Bitter Battle of Self-Preservation

Ann Hollingshead

In October of last year I wrote about Roman Polanski, a sex offender turned movie director, who has lived in Europe since 1978 when he fled the United States (see: Confessions of a WaPo Reader).  Swiss authorities took Polanski into custody last fall in Zurich and it looked as though European authorities might extradite Polanski to the United States. That October I argued that the arrest was a move to sooth U.S.-Swiss relations in the wake of the IRS inquiry into Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS.  I noted it was a part of a growing trend toward accountability and transparency worldwide.

I need to retract that relatively strong statement, though perhaps not wholly.

About a month ago, the Swiss Parliament voted to allow UBS to disclose 4,450 tax evading American names to the IRS, which had been part of a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Swiss bank.  Many hypothesized that this historic vote could lay the groundwork for more legal action by the U.S. against another bank.  Top contenders appear to be Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second largest bank, and HSBC, which is based in London, but has extensive Swiss operations under its Private Bank.

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Jul
13

Tuesday’s Daily News Digest

Scott Fahey

Editorial: Big Oil’s Good Deal
New York Times, July 11, 2010

Argentina calls for regulation of international finance
Agence France-Presse, July 12, 2010

Tax Intels to Work on Tax Havens
VIVAnews (Indonesia), July 13, 2010

TL 17 mln in tax loss uncovered due to fraud in oil sale
Today’s Zaman (Turkey), July 13, 2010

French Labor Minister Quits Party Post
New York Times, July 13, 2010

Strong Regimes Needed To Stem Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing
Bernama (Malaysia), July 13, 2010

S’pore is full participant in global process to fight illicit money: PM Lee
Channel NewsAsia (Singapore), July 13, 2010

Russia Falling Short of Anti-Corruption Plan
Vedomosti, July 13, 2010

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Jul
13

Pressure or potential? If I worked at the International Accounting Standards Board

David McNair

Photo: Antxon

If I were based at 30 Cannon St in the heart of the City of London, I’d be feeling somewhat under pressure as I made my journey to the state-of-the-art building. Members of this task force have long argued that the IASB, a private company registered in the US state of Delaware, has the potential to transform the way that companies operate to make them more accountable to government’s civil society, to challenge corruption and to help poorer countries to raise revenue to pay for education and healthcare for the world’s poorest people.

But today, the UN published a report suggesting the IASB could make a major contribution towards a more sustainable future for us all – by requiring that listed companies disclose their environmental and social impacts alongside financial statements. Of course, the technocrats will argue that it’s all too complicated. Compliance costs would be huge, there would be so much information that it would be difficult to interpret, it would impact investment and would make things worse; but we’ve heard these arguments before in relation to country-by-country reporting.

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Jul
12

The Corruption Tango

Ilmari Soininen

No nation with which I am familiar has descended so deeply into this suffocating abyss [of corruption] as Nigeria.” -Raymond Baker

Africa’s most populous nation, recently welcomed home Nuhu Ribadu, its respected former corruption czar, after an 18 month exile in Britain.  Ribadu ran Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from 2003 to 2007 before deciding to leave the country, fearing for his life.  He uncovered vast corruption, initiating over a thousand cases and winning an impressive share of convictions.  In one case, he investigated the inspector general of the police service, seizing $150 million in assets and securing a six-month prison sentence for his former boss.  In another, a governor was found to have siphoned three quarters of the state’s revenue into his own pockets.

Such examples illustrate the general perception of the level of corruption in Nigeria – the big men in government stealing much of the nation’s wealth.  When asked which sectors they considered most affected by corruption, 63% of Nigerians answered political parties.  Only 5% of respondents answered the business or private sector.

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Jul
12

Monday’s Daily News Digest

Scott Fahey

Revenue sheds light on details of complex tax avoidance schemes
The Post (Ireland), July 11, 2010

Greek taxman takes aim at island holiday villas
Reuters, July 9, 2010

Column: Drug cartels may cash out in Mexico, cash in on Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 11, 2010

Money laundering: EFCC to quiz ex-governor Attah tomorrow
Nigerian Tribune, July 11, 2010

Sat night ‘drama’: Hawala agents held, freed in 8 hrs
TNN (India), July 12, 2010

Spreading the gospel of good government
Edmonton Journal, July 11, 2010

GCC oil firms accused of receiving kickbacks
Emirates Business 24/7, July 11, 2010

China: government officials must report incomes
AFP, July 11, 2010

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Jul
9

Friday’s Daily News Digest

Scott Fahey

Mass Leak of Client Data Rattles Swiss Banking
Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2010

Experts meet in Caracas to discuss money laundering
El Universal (Venezuela), July 8, 2010

Corruption in Nigeria: A prodigal policeman returns
The Economist, July 8, 2010

Visa Ban: U.S. Compiles List Of Corrupt Nigerians
Daily Independent (Nigeria), July 8, 2010

Court to track money flow in alleged bribes on Argentine exports to Venezuela
El Universal (Venezuela), July 8, 2010

Halliburton: Unmasking The Masquerades
Daily Independent, July 8, 2010

From Communism to Mistressism
The Epoch Times, July 9, 2010

Bihar to seize properties of corrupt officials
Sify (India), July 9, 2010

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Jul
9

Marshall Islands, Oil Spills, and the Efficient Level of Precaution

Ann Hollingshead

Two days ago, BP announced that it has (so far) spent $3 billion on cleanup and containment in an attempt to mitigate the damage done by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  And this is not including the $20 billion it set aside to compensate business owners, fishermen, municipalities, and other parties who are suffering under catastrophic costs from spill-related damages.  This monumental amount of money got me thinking about the Economics of oil spills.  In particular, how does the financial liability associated with an oil spill’s damage effect the level of precaution a company will take to prevent such a tragic event?

In Economics, we refer to these models as the “efficient level of precaution,” which is the market-predicted level of precaution that a company should take to prevent catastrophes (when the benefits outweigh the costs).  This model is often used for nuclear power plants.  Suppose there is a disaster in a nuclear facility and the facility leaks gallons of radiation. The burden of the cost of this radiation is placed on the citizens in the surrounding area; not on the plant.  This is called an “externality” because the costs are external to the responsible party.  However, if the injured parties can get full compensation for the company’s actions (through legal action, for example) then the costs are “internalized” and the company has an incentive to provide precautions against nuclear discharge, to the extent that the precaution costs less than the costs incurred to society.  If such a situation cannot exist, if costs cannot be fully internalized, then the situation necessitates government intervention and oversight.

The same can work for oil spills.  Let’s represent this graphically (you can click on the image to the right to see it in its full sized glory).

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Jul
8

Thursday’s Daily News Digest

Scott Fahey

Analysis: Asia next in line of fire for U.S. tax police
Reuters, July 7, 2010

US to access Europeans’ bank data in new deal
BBC, July 8, 2010

A Liechtenstein disclosure: Bulk of LDF assets can stay put
International Adviser, July 7, 2010

‘No need to have previous criminal records to go to prison in new money laundering bill,’ Alak
Buenos Aires Herald, July 8, 2010

Nigeria asks for Akingbola’s arrest, extradition
Next (Nigeria), July 8, 2010

Anti-money laundering bill suffers setback
Next (Nigeria), July 8, 2010

Singapore To Host Asia Pacific Meeting On Money Laundering
Bernama, July 8, 2010

Deutsche Bahn sacks employees in foreign bribery scandal
The Local (Germany), July 8, 2010

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Jul
8

What could possibly go wrong in Ghana?

Tax Justice Network

Following on from Ghana’s recent World Cup defeat at the hands (literally) of Uruguay’s Suárez, Khadija Sharife has just posted a blog on how Ghanaian people are probably becoming victims of cheating on a far larger scale, albeit not so visible on television sets around the world.

Ghana is entering into its era of oil production. Before end-2010 the Jubilee oil field, one of Africa’s biggest offshore finds since the start of this century, could turn Ghana into the continent’s fifth largest oil-producing nation, bringing in upwards of $800 million a year. Happy days.

But dig a little deeper, and you find the first signs of the resource curse are readily discernible. As Sharife reports, ownership of the Kwame Nkrumah MV 21, the Floating Production Storage and Offloading facility used in the Ghanaian production programme, is obscured through offshore special purpose vehicles in the Netherlands, a country widely used as a conduit for shifting profits offshore.

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Jul
8

India dislikes OECD info exchange standard

John Christensen

Recently we blogged our rather harsh response to the OECD’s claim that its deeply flawed information exchange standard is “universally endorsed.” As if any more evidence were needed in support of our argument, see this in India’s Economic Times.

India will pitch for deeper tax information exchange agreements at the G-20 to make such pacts more effective in facilitating the flow of crucial data on tax evasion.

New Delhi is expected to present a detailed paper on the issue at the forthcoming Seoul meeting, urging that domestic laws of countries must support such agreements for effective information exchange. “These agreements should ensure that there is actual flow of information and benefits for countries entering them (agreements) in checking evasion,” said a finance ministry official privy to the discussions.

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Jul
7

Plan B for Jersey

Richard Murphy

Jersey is in a profound mess. Its finance industry is failing, with funds under management rapidly leaving the island and the profits of its finance sector falling by fifty per cent in 2009. Worse still, it faces a government spending deficit of at least £100 million a year representing 18% of its total annual government income unless radical reforms take place soon. To compound matters its corporate tax system faces being ruled unacceptable by the European Union, threatening another £120 million of its state income.

In the face of this crisis the government of Jersey has begun a fiscal strategy review. It has suggested increases in personal taxes amounting to £50 million a year and cutting government spending by the same amount will solve its problems, whilst adopting a new corporate tax system and planning for growth will keep the economy in balance.

There is however a fundamental problem at the heart of this plan: it does not address the fact that Jersey’s one and only major business – offshore finance – is failing in its current form. As such making choices on raising taxes are largely irrelevant because there may be little to tax if urgent action is not taken by Jersey to transform its future.

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Jul
7

Wednesday’s Daily News Digest

Scott Fahey

“With G-20 Influence… Comes G-20 Responsibility”
The Huffington Post, July 6, 2010

Youth Employment – A Must!
Daily Independent (Nigeria), July 6, 2010

World’s Best Tax Havens
Forbes, July 6, 2010

India likely to pitch for deeper tax information exchange at G-20 meet
Economic Times, July 7, 2010

Vanuatu upset by tax haven label
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 7, 2010

Africa’s poorest countries tax more aggressively
Afrique en Ligue, July 7, 2010

Panama’s Manuel Noriega convicted by French court
BBC, July 7, 2010

Nigeria: Money Laundering – Senate to the Rescue
Leadership (Nigeria), July 6, 2010

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Leaked HSBC Records Shed Light on Culture of Corruption in the International Banking System

Global Financial Integrity · February 9, 2015

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