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The City of London Is Hiding the World’s Stolen Money (nytimes.com)
279 points by pseudolus 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 176 comments





I'm not sure the comments so far are really about what's germane in the discussion of this article - namely, it's talking about the government document[0] which is an obvious nod-and-wink to the City[1], that they are free to go ahead and exploit loopholes in international and national law, and continue enabling the criminal system of tax evasion and political and social corruption, without the interference of regulators.

Anyone reading the headline statements in the document can see the implied meaning. For instance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

"I want to ensure that the government - working with our world-class regulators - takes an agile and dynamic approach, one which enables those in the financial services sector to evolve and thrive as they embrace the new opportunities of the future."

[0] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

[1] The 'City of London' in this context should be understood as the rough equivalent of 'Wall St' in US terms


Officially we oppose foreign dictatorships, unofficially we help them stash their money.

Every corrupt Russian official will buy realestate in the west, London if he's rich, some smaller EU country if he is a 'pleb'


That money from corrupt officials goes straight to the US real estate market. Miami.

Whoa, whoa, let's not get carried away with such broad accusations.

After all, sometimes it's New York.


I thought it was Vancouver?

Vancouver may be big for China, but for Russian citizens it's too far and irrelevant. Toronto is much more attractive in that regard as a potential emigration direction.

Or London.

> continue enabling the criminal system of tax evasion and political and social corruption, without the interference of regulators.

I think the nod and wink is to enable the perpertrators from outside the UK to 'invest' here, and let us have a cut, rather than enable UK citizens to engage in these activities.


I agree but I wonder who the "us" is in "let us have a cut". I think it may be quite a small us. Perhaps I should be glad I won't benefit.

>to 'invest' here, and let us have a cut

Who's "us"?


The people doing the nodding and winking.

Who is Us?

The people doing the nodding and winking!

Who is doing the nodding and winking?

They are!

Who are they?

THEM!


They wouldn’t be so foolish as to reveal their identity would they! But we see their cronies front and centre on the political stage.

RE your {1} for anyone else who didn’t always know that the City of London and the city of London are different entities: https://www.ft.com/content/7c8f24fa-3aa5-11e4-bd08-00144feab...


Bookmark this, the Pandora papers, etc when the dumb argument that crypto is used for money laundering.it happens, but the vast majority of graft is happening in London and Wall st.

Whenever a bureaucrat speaks the words "agile and dynamic", I prepare for the worst. It's a stateman catchphrase which stands for "We're going to do things over including those things that have been working well and present no need for changing them."

If the penny hasn’t dropped yet for anyone who was still wondering, this is what Brexit was always really about. Shameful.

In what way? Brexit has generally been extremely costly for london finance - having to establish and capitalise EU entities, loss of regulatory equivalence etc. There was more provision for fishing (<0.1% GDP) in the brexit agreement than there was for finance (10%+) which has largely been left to fend for itself.

I'm guessing that the point being made isn't about the financial industry in that sense, which indeed was hung out to dry by brexit, but instead the financial transparency requirements that the EU are bringing in.

The UK (along with its crown dependencies) are large scale centres of shell companies and other mechanisms used by people to obscure their wealth. The UK has promised to reform this but appears to be dragging its heels...


In this case, shouldn't Luxembourg and Ireland (among others) worry also? They tend to hide these kinds of stuff, and is unlikely (Ireland)/very unlikely (Luxembourg) to leave EU and its single market?

AFAIK Luxembourg and Ireland's focuses are slightly different. They both have very low rates of corporation tax, and that is starting to be addressed by things like the US plan for a minimum tax level.

Also they're much smaller countries I can't see luxembourg being able to opt out of the EU to protect financial arrangements...


Ireland is putting in place reforms nowish, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28804895

Irish public are intensely europhile, not just politically and economically but culturally and socially. It’s not even close to being on the list of options.

In practical terms big portion of illicit wealth from say Ukraine is being laundered through and finds safe heaven in Austria. So being or no being part of EU has little to do with it.

One thing which brought together a lot of people in varied European or international bodies, who otherwise didn't see eye to eye on much was the opinion that The City is probably the most corrupt place in the Western hemisphere, at least by volume of "shady money". Plenty on interests to keep that in the shade, although I wouldn't go so far as to say Brexit was solely about this.

It would be hard for a parliamentary to regulate such things when the royal family uses those loopholes

Honestly I doubt that's the reason. A large number of political donors using those loopholes on the other hand...

EU is implementing reporting requirements for banks

UK noped out


These ones?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/50168357

> But the rules are, in fact, all already part of UK law. A small number of them will not come into effect until 1 January [2020], but that would have happened anyway whether or not the UK was a member of the EU.


[flagged]


It’s funny how few people realize that’s what the bbc is.

That's nonsense - As the UK has left the EU, the laws and banking regulations that banks in the UK follow will be written in the UK and not by the EBA, but they will be consistent (following global agreements). Most of the banks operating in the City of London are European or American anyway and will also be following EBA and Fed reporting rules.

> Most of the banks operating in the City of London are European or American anyway

HSBC is neither, and is the second-biggest bank in Europe. Just to name an example. (I guess by "European" you mean "EU-based")


Yes but the UK can't unilaterally nope out of reporting requirements because the EU can simply refuse to continue with the previous passporting abilities afforded to UK finance. If the UK wants to continue with London being the gateway to the EU financial sector, they'll need to adhere to the EU rules.

With Brexit, the UK has now no say in what those rules are beyond some saber-rattling.

I mean, the UK can certainly just offer a very loose regulatory environment, but that's useless on it's own if other jurisdictions refuse to cooperate. The extreme measure would be to put the UK on the uncooperative tax regimes list, which would mean that nobody in other countries would touch business established here.


what reporting requirements? The UK hasn't "noped" out of anything, all EU directives were imported wholesale, as is new regulation so we can pursue equivalence. The PRA will not deviate from Basel even slightly.

What kind of enforcement?

Not the ECJ anyway!

I agree that some of the very wealthy will benefit from Brexit due to this, and they may have spent money trying to ensure it happened but the reason the vote was won by the leave campaign was for very different reasons.

It was a few different reasons, along with a lovingly nurtured swing from the centre, planted in racism and watered with dark money, all gathered together and reined by a cabal of cynics, crooks, and their cronies.

> this is what Brexit was always really about

The City was hit hard by Brexit, a stupid decision the U.K. bumbled into.

Nobody benefited in the long run. That our societies can walk off a cliff with nobody in charge is scary, so we try to attribute the decision to hidden forces. But sometimes, as in this case, there simply isn’t anyone at the wheel.


There have been plenty of specific, named, public people pushing for this to happen, many of whom are still in government. There very definitely are people at the wheel.

Quite the opposite. Brexit has removed the UK government's ability to veto EU regulation on tax shelters.

The UK would be happy to have the EU regulate tax shelters. That would allow them to take in all the tax shelter customers that are currently in Ireland, Luxemburg, and Switzerland.

That's not how it works. Ireland and Luxembourg have a seat at the table, and can veto their states being put on the list of non-cooperating jurisdiction. The British Virgin Islands no longer have that protection, nor does London for that matter.

"If the penny hasn’t dropped yet for anyone who was still wondering, this is what Brexit was always really about."

No, I don't think so ... rather, it is things like this that allowed Brexit to be plausible.

Which is to say, if you hunted around for backup plans, "global financial hub" was always first on the list.

It appears that it may be backfiring, however, as financial services and banks, etc., are decamping to Frankfurt ...


> it may be backfiring

The City was and remains overwhelmingly anti-Brexit [1]. The plan didn't backfire because there was no such plan.

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/2980dbd4-ecf6-11e8-8180-9cf212677...


No it wasn't: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36616028

Do you think all those east-midlands counties voted on behalf of London Finance?


There was also some dodgy goings on with Farage and some hedge funds, where they placed large bets on the pound dropping in value:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-06/brexit-po...

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-25/brexit-bi...

So some insiders were able to profit off the outcome of the referendum in shady circumstances.


No one _knew_ what the outcome would be (how could they have done?). Hedge funds routinely risk capital to bet on outcomes of events like this based on their own research (it's what they do); some would have got it right, some not. There's no conspiracy here.

Placing bets is investing. Placing bets with a conspiracy attached is activist investing.

City of London fought hard against isolation from European capital centers during Brexit negotiations the following years after the vote.

"While the Tories, the Whigs, the Peelites — in fact, all the parties we have hitherto commented upon — belong more or less to the past, the Free Traders (the men of the Manchester School, the Parliamentary and Financial Reformers) are the official representatives of modern English society, the representatives of that England which rules the market of the world.

They represent the party of the self-conscious Bourgeoisie, of industrial capital striving to make available its social power as a political power as well, and to eradicate the last arrogant remnants of feudal society. This party is led on by the most active and most energetic portion of the English Bourgeoisie — the manufacturers.

What they demand is the complete and undisguised ascendancy of the Bourgeoisie, the open, official subjection of society at large under the laws of modern, Bourgeois production, and under the rule of those men who are the directors of that production. By Free Trade they mean the unfettered movement of capital, freed from all political, national and religious shackles. The soil is to be a marketable commodity’ and the exploitation of the soil is to be carried on according to the common commercial laws. There are to be manufacturers of food as well as manufacturers of twist and cottons, but no longer any lords of the land. There are, in short, not to be tolerated any political or social restrictions, regulations or monopolies, unless they proceed from “the eternal laws of political economy,”

MARX, Karl

Free Trade and The Chartists

Written: on August 2, 1852;

First published: in the New-York Daily Tribune, August 25 1852.


What i don’t understand is why does the article act like this clearly public government document was found/leaked in the Pandora Papers

The article seems more like a lobbying piece, how many more times can the author write “shady”

edit: Nicholas Shaxson (@nickshaxson) is a staff writer for the Tax Justice Network and a co-founder of the Balanced Economy Project, an antimonopoly organization. He is the author of “Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World” and “The Finance Curse: How Global Finance Is Making Us All Poorer.”

This is an article geared for people to agree with it because it matches what they want to read


Inequality works pretty well, until it doesn’t.

The system is build to fail. Part of the reason we get along so famously here in Scandinavia, and why we share the burden of the less fortunate is because of how we build our cities and systems of society so that everyone met everyone. In an average school class in the 90’ies you’d find children from the top and the bottom of society, and that helps generate and build compassion, understanding and empathy in ways that I think are very underrated in today’s Danish society where we all send our children to private institutions and schools if we can afford it, and aren’t ideologically inclined not to do so.

This has created ghettos of wealthy and poor, where we don’t really mix anymore. The result has been fairly obvious over the past two decades, and as inequality steadily increases the classes grow further and further apart. This will of course only have one conclusion unless the legal system gets a grip and starts seizing and redistributing the wealth.

Maybe people are willing to live in their cars and work warehouse jobs in America, but here in the cradle of social democracy, people are sharpening their axes.


"... but here in the cradle of social democracy, people are sharpening their axes."

People revolt (for real) when they are hungry.

I am skeptical that any well-fed, satiated populace will spawn any kind of violent revolution.

So, regardless of the markers of inequality or other drivers of outrage (which certainly exist) I would be loath to predict any kind of violent unrest while everyone has food to put on the table.

They appear to in Scandinavia.


That's very cynical and not true at all (easy counter-example: France.)

Also, revolutions don't need to be violent! I argue it's better if they aren't. The "axes" can be metaphorical too.


"I am skeptical that any well-fed, satiated populace will spawn any kind of violent revolution"

Relatively well fed people started the american civil war, which is a kind of revolution.


The war began when they were faced with a threat of being less well-fed (not disregarding the immorality of it all).

By that logic housing shortage or runaway climate change should lead to war?

There has to be another country-like entity directly causing it for the war to occur.

A housing shortage doesn't qualify in that sense, and a revolution (internal war) is unlikely as a result of it because we don't have some tremendous housing shortage where a large population are not well-fed. If we did, maybe so!


It’s not intentionally built to fail

It’s intentionally built to empower people who die, and the baton gets fumbled around once they do

Frankly it’s working peoples fault. Aristocrats financial hegemony would vanish tomorrow if workers became independent agents rather than work for them.

Only 5% of the US hunts anymore. Everyone is dependent on industrialized economic distribution.

Let the bankers in NY and London try to collect mortgages across the world when we stop paying. Let the 800,000 sworn officers in the US police 300 million+ for no pay.

The system is too small to handle the reality. It’s not designed to fail, it’s not designed to scale. We see similar planning effort in the logistics pipeline problems; no slack. Militant efficiency.

Just like with religion, it’s the belief of the masses that enable the co-opting of our agency for their profit. Our belief enables them.

Unions need to stop collecting dues from members and start charging employers subscription fees, or similar changes to social norms. But that’s all politically babysat and everyone is happy to look away from the lack of disruption in that context, while disrupting the shit out of lives dependent on business that is now extracted from the community.

My fellow Americans ended up being a bunch of Daniel Plainviews… I drink your milkshake. But the financial wealth is all a mirage, made up to serve the old ways. Good luck when the masses realize very smart people took away their American dream.


> Only 5% of the US hunts anymore.

Not sure how exactly that is an "only", sounds pretty high to me. Does US really need more than 5% hunters? I'd be more concerned about the percentage of thinkers.

You can romanticize the prehistoric times and the middle ages all you want, but the reality is that the "working class" had it much worse back in the times when 50% were hunters.


> Frankly it’s working peoples fault.

I agree with everything but this. This is exactly why the propaganda machine for ages (fairytales) have put royalty/nobles at the top. e.g. It's the knight who kills the dragon, not the townsfolk who band together. Or that magical talent is somehow always hereditary. Or that the king

No, don't blame the working peoples. The countries where the working class got rid of royalty and are consistently demonized.


If they’d demand higher wages and healthcare collectively or force austerity on the stock market, they’d have those things. It works for teachers unions, and the like when they strike.

But like you said, we demonize working people instead of empowering them, for a reason.

The goal isn’t perfect mind control, but to avoid thinking in alternatives and enabling the self made nonsense. Convincing everyone they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires. Implant reasons to ignore alternatives and hammer on them; it’s not how it works for tradition, for country… one reason after another why we can’t politically just be decent.

It works not because people are lazy but mirror neurons. Biology. The public must be the one to do different so the public sees itself do different. Knows different is doable.

Relativity has some deep network effects we don’t often think about. We can’t experience otherwise doing the same all day.


>> Frankly it’s working peoples fault.

> I agree with everything but this.

I'd like to examine the principle from another angle, with the following question.

Regarding US voters who reelect pols that legislate in response to major campaign donations: How much responsibility do those voters have for legislative corruption?


> e.g. It's the knight who kills the dragon, not the townsfolk who band together.

You think it's propaganda that professional soldiers have a better shot at killing a mythical creature than a peasant militia?


"Only 5% of the US hunts anymore. Everyone is dependent on industrialized economic distribution."

There are 25 million deer in US, there are 300 million people.

I sympathise with your tirade, but all systems of power work this way. If tomorrow morning all people of Russia would forget who Putin is, he would become nobody.


You're basically saying that somehow the socialist idealism of Denmark is failing (despite its very high tax rates) and that now that it is failing people need to go further left, to communism? ("seizing and redistributing the wealth").

What changed in Denmark between the 90s and now?

Why do people, even in Denmark, send their kid to private schools if they can afford it?

Tax rates have always been very high in Denmark, you're advocating for them to be even higher?

> ... but here in the cradle of social democracy, people are sharpening their axes.

Blood to make sure to make more of what didn't work?


Denmark has been lurching towards the right for a while (from a Swedish perspective). There is more anti-immigrant sentiment and a solid foundation for keeping migrants out. (You need an address to get a CPH number, but you can't get an address without a CPH number for example).

I'm not saying they're wrong, I don't know. But that's the perspective from Malmo which is the closest major city to Denmark in Sweden... in fact Malmo is sometimes referred to a suburb of Copenhagen. (this is also controversial)


> What changed in Denmark between the 90s and now?

> Why do people, even in Denmark, send their kid to

> private schools if they can afford it?

I'm not speaking on behalf of the OP here, but my interpretation is that what changed _was_ people sending their kids to private schools instead of intermingling as they did before. I believe you are asking about the "why", why did they start sending them to private schools or why did they stop sending them to public or community schools.

That could be a multi-faceted answer, and it could be very difficult to pin down even what the dominant factors are. I would also like to know about Denmark.

I will add that this same problem exists in some form in my own home town, so I don't know if it's something unique to Denmark. My guess is that it's probably something to do with competition in generation from many more people consuming increasing amounts of a diminishing supply of resources.


"now that it is failing people need to go further left, to communism?"

Is it a feature of American politics to bring up communism in every discussion?

It's always some comedic parody too, like 'race mixing is communism' or 'climate change is a communist plot'. Basically a boogeyman of American politics


I don't know why you're being downvoted. Let's put our political inclinations aside, and just marvel in the long list of contradictions and unintentional negative commentary that someone managed to produce by trying to voice the opposite. With a large enough microphone, this fellow HN member would bring to fall any political affiliation they decide to join and support.

Warning: The City Of London[0] is different from the city of London[1].

The former is within the latter.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_London

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London



Actually the City of London is independent of London, like a square mile-sized hole in its heart. In many ways, it is also independent from the UK government as well in practice if not in law.

The City is not even remotely independent of the government. Name one way in which it is so? It is also part of London proper, just separate from the GLA, e.g. it is part of London Councils.

My understanding is that it's the only territory in the UK not under the Crown.

The government is an extension of her majesty, and since the Queen can't even enter without prior permission.... though I believe there's some form of power exerted on the City by parliament.

They are governed by the "City of London Corporation" which is much different from the "Mayor of London".

They have their own police force, power stations, elections. Etc;

Unless you have information I don't have.


> They are governed by the "City of London Corporation" which is much different from the "Mayor of London".

Specifically, the City of London Corporation is headed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, who is a completely different person than the Mayor of London who heads the Greater London Authority, which is the government of what most people think of as the city named London, which is a completely different thing than the City of London.


It's my understanding that the Corporation administers local government in the City, and it is itself plutocratic rather than democratic, but otherwise Parliament's laws for England apply just as well within the City as without. Banking regulations and so forth that govern business in the City come from FCA, which came into existence by an act of the UK Parliament.

I mean, Manchester has its own police force, Merseyside has its own police, and so forth. Each borough in the England has its own elections. What's peculiar about the City is that the electorate of the City's elections includes businesses as well as residents. But it's not some kind of extraterritorial oddity as some conspiracy theorists think.


The City has an MP and takes part in general elections. Its very much part of the UK and London. It just has some laws relaxed. I am not even sure that the whole 'the queen cant enter' thing is real. I have heard several times its just a custom they follow but not actually something they could enforce or do enforce at all.

Entrance is not codified in law, mostly ceremony- but it may as well be law the way our monarchy is tied to traditions

There's a commons MP for the City of London _and_ Westminster (jointly) but that arrangement is... peculiar and not like other regions of the UK at all. She doesn't officially represent the CoL from their perspective.

There _is_ a member of the House of Lords who is directly posted by CoL and his job is to prevent the erosion of rights that City of Londoners enjoy.


The City also has a 'remembrancer' [0], effecively a lobbyist who represents the City's interests to Parliament.

[0] https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/about-us/about-the-city-of-l...


This is fascinating, I saw this exact "queen can't enter without prior permission" bit in some alt history fiction recently and was convinced they must have made it up. I wonder if Washington DC's special status in the US was inspired by this City Of London arrangement in some way?

Washington, DC was made a federal district so that the seat of national government would not be dependent on any particular US state for its security, but would be able to provide its own security force.

This was because the Congress had been beseiged by disgruntled citizens when it met in Philadelphia, and the state of Pennsylvania had refused to intervene.

I'm getting this from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington,_D.C.#History


Washington D.C.’s special status exist to guarantee the independence of the central government from particular pressure of the host state, as opposed to the City of London’s privileges which are historically to protect well-to-do local merchants and craftsmen from the intrusive power of the nobility.

To hear this Guardian columnist tell it[0], the City of London (the Square Mile) is a medieval anachronism entirely outside of parliamentary control.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/31/corpor...


Indeed. "London" is actually more correctly the city of Westminster. London was a walled city while Westminster wasn't so it could grow.

I don’t really understand the regional inequality point. Obviously the City is uniquely rich and full of investment amongst places in the UK, but that is because we are fortunate enough to have one of the world’s foremost financial centres. Most firms in the City view Paris and Zurich as their alternatives, not Manchester and Birmingham, and I don’t see how that can be changed.

I think the country is much better off with the City than without it and to some extent we must be accommodating of it, not bending it to our will.

Disclaimer: written from my desk within the City.


The City is one of the world’s foremost financial centres exactly because of what went on under the carpet in the last 30 years… call it accounting proficiency in the beginning, facilitation next, hedging and venturing in the end. Of course, all kind of customers felt increasingly safe to do any sort of business, which started being exposed to the general public 15 years ago, the night Barclays almost went under, HSBC got caught with their trousers down, and Gordon Brown had to save the day in order not to declare systemic bankruptcy. The UK financial industry hugely benefitted from being half in, half out the EU… call it fortune, if you want.

Much longer than 30 years- the City of London has been globally significant since Tudor times, and have been a political entity for over a thousand years - it’s still run along quasi-medieval lines.

The City of London is a byword for the businesses that operate there.

Everything else, apart from its value as real estate, is just a historical curiosity...it doesn't matter


> The City of London is a byword for the businesses that operate there.

Great example of synecdoche (rhymes with Schenectady)


I guess it's a game theory kind of thing. If, for some reason, the UK decided to clean their act, the grifters would go someplace else (delaware, singapore, etc). In the end it might make the world a slightly better place but at an important cost for the city types.

However, it would mean that part of the local investment might flow back into local business/industry, making the country also slightly better off and with less inequality there might also be less corruption. Your average politician would spend less time being a mercenary for the city and more time dealing with actual problems.


My layman's understanding is this: having a single dominant industry like finance causes high demand for the pound, raising the price. This is terrible for exports, as producing industries have to compete with countries with more beneficial exchange rates. This is also known as Dutch disease.

> I think the country is much better off with the City than without it

Possibly, but here the perception of tax avoidance and perception of corruption matters, as well as the ability of people on City salaries to outbid everyone else on housing.

Ultimately the City is still subject to UK law and UK voters, and the more depressed towns pile up the more likely something drastic and probably counterproductive is going to be "done about" the City.


I am not sure why someone in Manchester gets so upset that someone in London is helping launder an African dictators dirty money, as if it is directly making their life miserable.

If everyone paid their 'fair share' down London way it wouldnt change a thing.


> I am not sure why someone in Manchester gets so upset that someone in London is helping launder an African dictators dirty money

As the saying goes, we live in a society.


They get their kickbacks up north and then some. Occasionally they even get a dictator to chuck some money in to support the local football team as well.

Because this foreign miney is inflating the real estate buble making housing unaffordable.

Because financialisation has caused stock market and GDP to become detached from the real productive economy.

Because maybe they think the finance industry should be investing in real infrastructure or something productive.


On the other hand there is an argument that financial services are too large a part of the UK economy, that they soak up talent in a way that impacts the rest of the UK and influence exchange rates so that other businesses have become less competitive in international markets. Somewhat like Dutch disease.

Totally agree on this point. As an American who spent the last year working in Westminster this was always something I never understood.

It's called Dutch disease. The financial center has a distortive effect on the allocation of resources in the country, including talent.

"Most firms in the City view Paris and Zurich as their alternatives ..."

Is this true ? Genuinely curious since you work in The City.

I was under the impression that New York was 1, London was kind-of-sort-of 2 and Frankfurt was either 2 or 3 ...

Comments ?


> world’s foremost financial centres

Best "tax evasion as a service" since City of London uses laws as obscure as if they came from some fantasy book.


Name three of these laws.

* Decisions made at a desk in London are marked as made elsewhere, e.g. tax haven, so no CIT paid

* trusts excluded from information exchange processes, effectively unknown beneficial owner

* No reporting of capital reserves to nobody, so laws like Basel II literally dont exist, as long as the pseudo bank is on some island (yet all operations are in City)

* "If I believe it looks like a bank, then it is a bank"


IMHO there are six key problems here:

1. A predicted consequence of Brexit was that the UK would become more of a tax haven once freed from the shackles of EU banking and financial regulation. This would be (and is) sold under the banner of jingoism and because of jobs as some business moves to the EU;

2. The US demands financial transaction information as the price for access to the US banking system. The flipside of this is that the US doesn't share that information with anyone else so ironically (or perhaps by design) the US has its own role in hiding assets. Note that South Dakota featured prominently in the Pandora Papers; and

3. We need to tax real estate more when the beneficial owner isn't known or isn't a tax resident of wherever the real estate is located. Treating real estate purely as an asset class is having real consequences for the ability of people to live. New York City, London and other cities are where people work and live and shouldn't simply be a place for oligarchs to secretly park money.

Yes, we have property taxes in NYC as one example but they're not high enough. For example, a $100m apartment only pays about 10-15x the taxes on a $1m apartment and that $1m apartment pays 2-3x the taxes on a $1m single-family home.

Interestingly, US citizens and residents have to declare foreign assets every year (twice; once to the IRS and the exact same information also to the Treasury on a separate form) but... foreign real estate is an excluded asset. You don't even have to report it. Why? It's a nonsensical exclusion for the wealthy;

4. We need to do something about using debt to avoid taxes. This is another zero-interest problem. Why repatriate or realize gains and pay 35% when you can borrow at <1% basically forever. Worst case you end up realizing gains to pay those loans back. For individuals, you get out of that by dying (ie your beneficiaries inherit things on a stepped up basis). For companies, borrowing money should count as repatriating foreign profits and be taxed accordingly;

5. We need to tax more things at source; and

6. We need to do more about using IP shenanigans to shift profits overseas. Additionally, countries need to start apportioning profits based on revenue. If Apple earns 25% of their revenue in the US then the US should tax 25% of their profits.

People being unwilling to pay for the world that allows their wealth to exist is not a new problem but like all such efforts before them, the ultimate form of wealth redistribution is war and revolution. And nobody wants that.


Why didn't the UK use its veto to prevent the "shackles of EU banking and financial regulation" from ever being implemented?

To get something else they wanted.

Veto power doesn't mean you can simply veto anything you don't like. Well, you can but then everybody else does the same thing and the net result is nothing. So in reality, you just give up something you want for something you want more. You compromise.

But now the UK isn't shackled by having to make concessions to 25+ other countries that can veto their agenda.


They didn't even have to use veto, they had the ability to opt out of most regulations and directives.

This is a truly terribly written and argued op-ed, regardless of your stance on offshore banking. If the author spent any time at all actually explaining the mechanisms by which this system works, perhaps also offering an insight or two for those who are familiar with the basics, it would have been an actually useful read. Instead, no effort was spared inserting the word "shady" everywhere it can possibly fit. So it goes.

The root solution is rather simple but also completeley unacceptable to the architects of the modern global trade deal structures, all of which are built around unrestricted cross-border capital flows. The ability to move large sums of money from one country to the other without the government taking a fair slice is a relatively new phenomenon.

Simply re-instate capital controls and the uber-wealthy would find the costs of offshoring their wealth would be greater than the costs of paying their fair share of taxes domestically, as would corpororations.

Of course, corrupt governments controlled by the uber-wealthy (Saudi Arabia, United States, Britain, Australia, etc.) would never willingly go along with this approach, as it would represent a great loss of power and control by the billionaire class.


> as it would represent a great loss of power and control by the billionaire class

There are zero cases, contemporaneously or historically, of permanent capital controls not having billionaire-sized holes for the rich and powerful. Instead, they typically create a wealth transfer from the lower and middle classes to a bureaucratic layer of bullshit jobs which benefit the elite.


Well, by far the major issue would be the disruptive influence on offshoring manufacturing. Consider Ford or GM manufacturing cars in Mexico. These cars are 'products of Mexico' and if sold in Mexico (to the exporter division of Ford and GM) then that cash could not be transported back to Wall Street without the Mexican government taking a significant cut, say 20%, which would make the whole offshoring of manufacturing uneconomical to the Wall Street architects of US free trade deals.

This would force manufacturing back to the country of ownership, which would be good for domestic manufacturing and middle class prosperity, and very bad for the current global tax evasion and money laundering system.


> Consider Ford or GM manufacturing cars in Mexico. These cars are 'products of Mexico' and if sold in Mexico (to the exporter division of Ford and GM) then that cash could not be transported back to Wall Street without the Mexican government taking a significant cut

We don't need to use hypotheticals: China is heavily capital controlled on the outbound side of the equation. On the other side of the coin, the U.S. corporate tax regime, until recently, penalised bringing capital home. That acted as a limited inbound capital control. So when considering a U.S. company investing in China, one would have symmetric capital controls.

The result? Not less offshoring. Just more money sitting uselessly in various accounts being tended to by teams of lawyers and accountants.


A condition of China's WTO deal in 2001 was that in not employ capital controls with trade partnets:

> Commitment No 9: Non-tariff measures

> "China shall eliminate and cease to enforce trade and foreign exchange balancing requirements, local content and export or performance requirements made effective through laws, regulations or other measures."

Thus, there's been no 'test case' to date of the results of forcing manufacturers to pay real costs for outsourcing domestic USA manufacturing to sweatshop low-rate labor zones overseas.

This is probably the most pushed aspect (and least reported on by the media) of all the 'foreign trade deals' the US government has pushed from the 1980s onwards - relaxation of capital controls by the target country. Notably, countries that agreed to wholesale removal of all restrictions typically get gutted by pump and dump schemes, currency manipulation, and so on (see Asian crisis 1997 etc., which China avoided) run out of Wall Street and London financial centers.

Incidentally, from an economic perspective, Ricardo's Theory of Competitive Advantage (sheeps wool from Britain, grapes from France being the traditional example) which shows how two trade partners can mutually benefit. The concept only applies if profits from trade stay in the countries of origin; Britain setting up a slave plantation in France in 1750, for example, and exporting profits and wine to Britain would not be what Ricardo had in mind.


> China's WTO deal in 2001 was that in not employ capital controls with trade partnets

One, it's an open secret that China rusn roughshod over its WTO accession commitments. (Including the language you cite. For example, with respect to local content and local partnership requirements.) Two, that language doesn't deal with capital controls, but with currency manipulation and tariffs. (Both of which, again, China does.) In reality, anyone who has done business in China knows that converting yuan from local sales to dollars is a tedious process [1].

Capital controls have little to do with what makes offshoring enticing: the labor cost and regulatory gradient. Ford making a car in Mexico to sell to Mexicans isn't an offshoring problem. It's Ford making cars in Mexico to sell to Americans. Tariffs are the direct solution to the latter. Capital movement is irrelevant.

[1] https://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/china-chine/control-cont...


Let's say we transfer ownership of Ford and GM factories in Mexico to a new Mexican auto manufacturer controlled by Mexican banks, for example. If this manufacturer sold a similar car to American buyers at a lower price (due to low labor costs) than GM or Ford could, without violating IP, that would be the Ricardo Competitive Advantage concept.

The US govt could slap import tariffs on those imported autos (as it does with imported Chinese solar panels) to flatten price differentials. However, the Mexican government could also apply export tariffs (even bans) in order to keep domestic auto prices down. (Notably the US banned crude oil exports from 1970-2015). Such export tariffs can be a form of capital controls imposed by a government, but aren't they typically banned in free trade deals?


> Such export tariffs can be a form of capital controls imposed by a government, but aren't they typically banned in free trade deals?

Except it’s not a form of capital control. It’s a trade tariff. You want tariffs, which are typically what’s reduced in trade deals. Capital control or not, without tariffs the offshoring you describe would make sense. (You just wouldn’t repatriate the profits from Mexico in a world without free movement of capital.)

Also, why would Mexico implement an export tariff in this example? To decrease the domestic price of cars? More realistic: the U.S. would implement an import tariff. Capital controls on either side would, again, do nothing.


Capital controls would no doubt lead to a flood of money into Bitcoin

That's probably the main reason behind the Chinese crackdown (China having strict limits on capital transfers):

> "Another concern inherent in decentralised cryptocurrencies is that they make it easy to circumvent China’s capital controls, which restrict people from converting more than US$50,000 worth of yuan into foreign currencies each year."

> "Without restrictions on bitcoin trading, it is easy to buy large values of the digital token and quickly convert it into other currencies. Still, the fees associated with that are typically much higher than what people would pay through bank transfers."

1. https://www.scmp.com/tech/big-tech/article/3141253/chinas-bi...

Institution of capital controls in Britain and the USA would represent an inversion of the actual political power structure (which is currently basically a top down oligarchic power structure run out of Wall Street and London, a system in which most major economic decisions are made by a 'Central Committee' of billionaire shareholders and CEOs, not by their paid-off and subservient bureaucrats and politicians).


Bitcoin is a completely open database of all transactions. We can’t say the same for the banking system.

Monero would be a much better choice for their purposes.


I live in South Dakota. Turns out we're hiding a hell of a lot of it too.

The City of London has an interesting governance structure. There are two types of voters, resident and business [0].

[0] https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/about-us/voting-elections


I'm not sure what we think the city does to hide all this money but compared to its size I think its probably cleaner than: swiss secrecy, Irish tax dodging, Dutch sandwich companies, and the US tech companies with billions parked in carribean banking centers delaware companies and south dakota trusts etc. Opinion article seems to sling a lot of muck but nothing substantial/concrete. "competitive" is not evidence for a crime IMHO.

Couple points:

1. Have any of you brilliant financial analysts who work in different tech sector jobs and megacorps put consideration into how much of your high salaries and benefits might just be subsidized by those same corps that hire you being able to enormously reduce their tax burdens through all sorts of clever tax avoidance schemes?

The same havens and instruments that are often used by blatant tax avoiding criminal money launderers such as drug traffickers and corrupt politicians also correlate with the paths that legal entities legally use to avoid taxes.

2. In all discussions about tax havens and financial privacy instruments, the criticism is always against those who practice these things and those who facilitate them. Rarely do people who should know better seem to ask if maybe, just maybe, government already wastes far too much money on all sorts of idiocies and inefficiencies. Many of these could first be corrected for better funding of its better, more socially beneficial programs instead of reallocating funds or trying to squeeze even more tax revenue and paranoid surveillance from people of all kinds.

The obvious example in this case: The U.S governments military budget alone is in the several hundreds of billions per year (not including god knows how much black budget spending or military-related waste), but tax avoidance losses get screamed about by bureaucrats and social justice types at every turn.

How about wasteful-spending avoidance first, and a modicum of self restraint from the behemoth public agencies that bloat nearly every western governments apparatus today?


Technical question! Shady dictator moves $100 million to the British Virgin Islands. Where does the money actually go? In a "traditional" country the bank can invest the money in the stock market or land or government bonds. But as I understand it BVI doesn't really have any of those things, at least not in sufficiently large amounts to support the trillions banked there. So I wonder where/how does the money exist in these tiny countries?

> So I wonder where/how does the money exist in these tiny countries?

Banks, in any country, aren’t limited to domestic investments. It goes into exactly the same things as it would if in a US Bank.


Understood, but if say the BVI bank buys US treasuries, won't that make this supposedly underground money visible? (Assuming there is a register of US treasuries - I've no idea which is why I'm asking)

Who the clients of the bank are and where that money comes from is not visible when that bank buys treasuries.

This article in the NYTimes was an excellent follow on to the Pandora Papers. The question is, will anyone actually do anything about it? I predict a temporary spasm of anger and shouting followed by the typical malaise. The only thing rich people are starting to be concerned about is average folk no longer willing to work according to the old rules, hence the current labor imbalance around the developed world.

This really isn’t surprising, the rich and powerful will always be the rich and powerful. The article sheds a little more light on what we have always suspected. This is the game! Everything else are just distractions.

I'm reminded of the Guardian article: "How Britain can help you get away with stealing millions: a five-step guide" all about how ludicrously loose the UK's company registrar is.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/05/how-britain-ca...


Is this news?

IIRC it was in the book "Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World" by Nicholas Shaxson that I first learned about the existance of the City of London.

I don't even get indignated anymore... The thing is, as a society, we're fine with tax evasion ad high levels. Had we not been so fine with it, something would have been done about it.


I strongly recommend a documentary on Youtube called "The Spider's Web - Britain's Second Empire" that talks about this very problem of dirty capital being funnelled through City of London and its offshore islands.

London is and always was the main financial hub for the world. Of course some dodgy money will find its way in.

Behind Every Great Fortune There Is a Crime

Even easier if what constitutes a "crime" can be arbitrarily defined into existence by a whole torrent of financial regulations and laws that often come into being for the sake of defending the government's ravenous need for control and funds.

We are a major laundry chain, ofcourse sometimes a billion dollars will slip here or there!

Also take note the the UK government is very interested in setting up several new Freeports.


Meanwhile, they push for 'behaviour change' taxes for the plebs.

And South Dakota.

crypto's fault

It isn't just the city of London. It is all the squeaky clean modern financial centers like Switzerland, Singapore, etc that help cleanse black money flowing in from countries like China, India, etc. Countries like Cayman Islands, etc. come into attention, but the heavy lifting of enabling corruption is done by many countries high on the transparency index. It is just that the people affected are mostly in third world countries so no one cares.

Britain's overseas territories are not "partly controlled". They are self-governing.

Their foreign policy, their defense and their diplomatic representation is decided by London. They're not sovereign.

My feeling with those territories is that they should vote to either become proper regions of the UK along with MPs or go fully independent.

AFAIK they don't contribute to the UK finances directly, but do take advantage of things like UK defence spending and are effectively protected from international regulations by being part of the UK for those purposes.


My response to this: privacy is a right.

Trying to build a fair and equitable world using a tax system that relies on knowledge of everyone's finances is not only doomed to fail but also abhorrent because it denies privacy except to the rich and powerful.

The obvious place to start with an alternative is land value tax. The Georgists have the right idea.


Privacy has always, and in every modern democracy, been subject to court orders to produce documents. There is nothing horrifying about transparency in finance. Property taxes have a role to play, for example in reducing the use of otherwise unused property to launder money. But, without other regulation, property taxes would just be a kind of sham, leaving every other avenue for money laundering wide open.

There is a difference between court orders to violate privacy in narrow cases and the kind of 24/7, always-on surveillance needed to make this work fairly.

Downvotes: why do you disagree? Do you think it is possible to achieve the aims of a fair and equitable world through taxation? Do you think we can have sufficient financial transparency for the super rich to make them pay tax fairly compared to the rest of society?

If so, why and how?

Or do you just think that people have no right to privacy even when there’s no evidence they’ve done anything wrong?



Contrarian point: tax havens protect wealth from wasteful public sector interests.

Case in point: California, where income tax rates are over 50% for some income brackets, because the state sector has taken over the political system, via control over the dominant narrative/ideology.

To give just one example, emergency workers can retire at 55 with 90% of their pension, that averages $108,000 per year.

California now has $1 trillion in pension obligations for its unionized public sector workers.

The one thing that the leak revealed, that should not be tolerated, is wealth hiding by public officials. Public officials should be under intense scrutiny. In fact all the financial surveillance laws which are misleadingly labeled anti-money laundering laws, should be repealed, and in their, place we should have financial surveillance laws for public officials.


"Wastefull public sector interests."

Is buying a luxury house in central london and letting it rot, empty for 20 years while it's value climbs 'efficient free market'?

https://theconversation.com/londons-extraordinary-surplus-of...


Spending on non-essentials happens by people of all income categories, including the hundreds of thousands of 55 year pensioners receiving $100K+ a year from taxpayers in California. At least the market system is allocating capital to those who are generally better at growing it. The automatic pay raises in the public sector are not mediated by any kind of economic efficiency metric. With respect to tax havens, the problem is when it's public officials that are hiding their wealth, which is why I suggested more scrutiny should be placed on them.

"Spending on non-essentials happens by people of all income categories"

You are totally missing the point, they are competing for a scarce resource and driving up it's prices only to waste it. They are creating a housing crisis.

"market system is allocating capital to those who are generally better are growing it"

So 'wealth attrachs more wealth'? That's a benefit in your mind? Not that the capital is used productively, or deployed efficiency in the real world, just that imaginary numbers are growing in a spreadsheet

"the problem is when it's public officials that are hiding their wealth"

As opposed to Jeff Bezos hiding his wealth? If Jeff has 1,000X more wealth than all of them combined, why are they 'the problem'?


In fact, one reason property is scarce and prices are sky-high in London & South-East England more generally is restrictions on new development. In other words - the lack of a properly free market rather than free market excess. London, apart from a few flashy skyscrapers in the City and the odd legacy housing tower is a bunch of low-rise flats and terraced houses. Contrast this to Manhattan or São Paulo.

>>You are totally missing the point, they are competing for a scarce resource and driving up it's prices only to waste it. They are creating a housing crisis.

Public sector workers also buy investment properties, just not the most expensive properties with spectacular price tags.

And in any case, that can be addressed directly, with a land tax. Any wasteful use of the scarce resource would then be heavily penalized, with those who engage in its waste paying a significant premium to society at large.

>>Not that the capital is used productively, or deployed efficiency in the real world, just that imaginary numbers are growing in a spreadsheet

Generally, good investments, that produce large private returns, increase the productivity of the economy. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't see such a strong correlation between liberalization of entrepreneurship/private-enterprise laws, and economic growth.

See China's pro-market reforms:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_economic_reform

Or China's special economic zones. Or South vs North Korea, Or West vs East Germany. Or pre-Chavez and post-Chavez Venezuela. Or the pre-social-democracy and post-social-democracy West.


Post social-democracy west had decreasing social mobility and minimal wage growth for 40 years, and OECD and every serious economist has written about this extensively:

https://www.oecd.org/economy/outlook/Decoupling-of-wages-fro...

"Liberalisation of entrepreneurship"

Are we conflating cutting red tape and enabling tax evasion?


By post-social-democracy, I am referring to the period after which social democracy was instituted, meaning the social democracy era.

See the rapid transition to social democracy:

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/social-spending-oecd-long...

And you're right, the results have been terrible.

>>Are we conflating cutting red tape and enabling tax evasion?

I'm making the point that private returns are generally associated with increases in economic efficiency, as evidenced by the correlation between laws permitting private enterprise, and more rapid economic growth. Your earlier comment suggested making money in the market is not associated with productivity increases.


This is not a 'social democracy era', stop worshiping the invisible hand and pick up a book on economics.

I recommend you look at the graph I provided, which shows how massively the West has shifted to social democracy.

Please find a single respectable historian of economy or similar that shares the view that the current era is the era of social democracy rather than neoliberalism and large scale privatizations of formerly social democratic mixed economies?

But since you are HNs most blatant free market fundamentalist (proven by the ridiculous claim above that social spending alone constitutes social democracy, not to even mention the revisionism) I'm not expecting much more than tone policing.


Narratives, popularized by the elite, like the very large and highly paid public sector bureaucracy, are irrelevant to the truth. The truth is revealed by scientific evidence, which in the social sciences, constitutes socioeconomic statistics. What are your thoughts on the statistics I provided earlier, which I'll reproduce here:

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/social-spending-oecd-long...

?

>>proven by the ridiculous claim above that social spending alone constitutes social democracy, not to even mention the revisionism

You should ask yourself why you are so angry and so intent on trying to discredit my completely reasonable effort to support my position, while the evidence you yourself provided is so absurdly flimsy, like minimum wage (which only affects 4% of jobs) not rising fast enough, and social mobility decreasing (which could very plausibly be due to any number of anti-free-market developments, like 1. growing regulatory restrictions stratifying the position of incumbents in the market, 2. growing government spending creating a more nepotistic economy that favors elite interests, like public sector unions, who tend to have the strongest political connections).

I have to ask, given around 40% of the economy now consists of the state, or those funded by it: do you perhaps have a financial conflict of interest in this debate? Do you work in the public sector, or otherwise hold a unionized job, which would make you a direct beneficiary of the state growing its control over the economy?

But to your point: the share of the economy that is forcefully redistributed by the state, for the purpose of funding social welfare programs, is in fact a completely reasonable proxy for the extent to which social democracy plays a role in a society. Do you have a more direct proxy?

As an aside, trying to gaslight critics of the social democratic establishment with this kind of bad-faith response profoundly damages the public discourse, and I urge you to stop doing it.


Extra ordinary claims require extra ordinary evidence to warrant the effort. A single generic social spending figure doesn't meet that.

Why won't you just provide a single respectable, non-lobbyist, historian/economists that supports your claim?


A massive increase in overall social welfare spending, as a share of GDP, is indeed an strong indication of a move toward a more social democratic economic structure. What contorted theory do you have to come up with to explain how it wouldn't indicate such?

Why ignore statistics and look for an argument from authority?


Alright, since you can't even come up with a single one it's pointless to spend any effort on extraordinary claims that have no backing beyond your own strange imagination. And no, a single social spending figure doesn't constitute an ideological era of social democracy. It's an absurd and frankly pathetic suggestion. If you actually interested in an objective look at this you'd have an easy time googling up mountains of work that goes against your claim of an social democratic era, but that would obviously be off-brand to a free market fanatic trying to justify why the last 30-40 years of neoliberalism is finally starting to crack.

"Public sector workers also buy investment properties"

I am really confused by this obsesssion with public sector workers?

"We should do drugs"

"Public sector workers do drugs too!"


The money not being taxed, due to tax havens, would not be being spent more efficiently if it had been taxed. All the inefficiencies you refer to would be manifested as a result of the income that taxation would provide to the public sector.

The efficiency of 'investment' pf the money sitting in tax heavens is 0%. You can't be less efficient

No, the money in tax havens is invested back into the real economy via offshore corporations that operate and invest throughout the world.

I recommend you study up on how investment finance works, and stop assuming that any characterization of the world that helps to protect rich people's profits is a lie to hoodwink the masses. That's a common reaction, and leads to erronous beliefs about the world. Wealth accumulation in the market is not zero-sum.

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/08/04/we-have-an-ingrained-an...


When do you think emergency workers should retire?

I have no idea what CA pensions are like but NY it was generous to a fault.

Someone did an analysis of the NYFD and noticed that overtime peaked during the last 3 years of service (no shit, that’s what the pension is based on).

They also noticed that a huge proportion were retiring with disability (like 70%) which provides a pension “kicker” and boosters it further.

What you ended up with was firefighters working 30+ hrs of OT per week and qualifying for disability and retiring with 120% of their normal salary versus the typical 60%. Dude we’re retiring with pensions of $120,000 per year until they die.

I don’t blame them for gaming the system but Jesus Christ.


Someone commented that the most effective way to dig out abusive and violent police officers was simply to audit their overtime properly; fraud is rampant, and there's a correlation between ignoring one set of laws and ignoring another.

That's right. Detail and overtime fraud is rampant and in some PDs it is pervasive. I am surprised nobody has tried to "defund the police" simply by enforcing the law.



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