Panama Papers? Sanders Was Fighting Tax Havens In 2013.

By Jerry Alatalo

(Photo: ImagesofMoney.org)
(Photo: ImagesofMoney.org)

Alphabet A video from February 2013 shows now 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaking forcefully in opposition to tax havens. While many around the world are both thankful and enraged after learning first details of the “Panama Papers”, the largest media leak in human history, it is important – especially for American voters – to understand one candidate of the major parties was actively battling offshore tax evasion since at least early 2013. Bernie Sanders.

Hillary Clinton got busted red-handed misrepresenting Bernie Sanders’ record on healthcare a few weeks ago when she intentionally and arrogantly lied, with a fake air of moral outrage asking a St. Louis crowd, “Where was my opponent (Sanders) in 1993-94 when I was working on healthcare?” A video from 1993 of Ms. Clinton making a press statement about healthcare was found within hours, clearly showing Bernie Sanders standing directly behind her – and where she thanked Sanders personally for all of his help – and quickly went viral.

Sanders could – especially after the “Panama Papers” expose has become the issue discussed across all media, gaining worldwide attention – ask “Where was my opponent (Clinton) in 2013 when I was waging a battle against tax havens?” Sanders could ask the same question of Trump, Cruz and Kasich.

The matter of highest importance for the American people to consider between the candidates’ questions is this: Clinton’s false and misleading question was slanderous and designed to steal votes, while Sanders would be asking about an issue that is very important and clearly legitimate. The “Panama Papers” release only strengthens and adds to positive perceptions of Bernie Sanders in the eyes of the American people.

(Thank you to Bernie Sanders at YouTube)

From February 2013:

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Death And Taxes: Half True For Wealthy Few On Earth.

by Jerry Alatalo

aaa-8Alphabet The old saying goes that the only things we can be absolutely sure of are death and taxes. Every human being will die one day for certain, although some believe the soul goes on forever, but that’s a topic for another writing. So, at least from the generally held view of death where one stops breathing and all physical/bodily activity stops – yes, death is inescapable. But taxes are another thing altogether according to the men and women over at Tax Justice Network, and what their years of research have revealed is that, for some, taxes are not inescapable. What they’ve found to apply for some people around the Earth is that “the only (singular) thing we can be be sure of is death”.

It’s been some three or four years since the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) received, then released to the world, computer files on tens of thousands of account-holders using tax haven banks operating in the British Virgin Islands. High-level politicians in several countries became forced to resign, star athletes and famous Hollywood screen idols suffered major public relations scandals, and old money bazillionaires saw their cherished anonymity evaporate. The story went uber-viral and was widely reported in all corners of the planet, and many believed the decades-old, secret tax haven industry was facing a certain death, surely in a short elapsed period when those criminal banks were shuttered and stop all financial activity. You know, when they stopped breathing.

Tax havens are still very much alive and breathing.

Days after ICIJ’s bombshell leak, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and America’s President Barack Obama were giving a press conference after a scheduled meeting. The ICIJ leak had become such a massive global story that it was inevitable the story would come up, and right on camera in front of the world David Cameron spoke about how (paraphrasing) “we are going to eliminate tax evasion!… tax evasion is fundamentally unfair… totally unacceptable!… etc. – and so on…”  Old sayings like “death and taxes” hold much truth in them, but David Cameron’s feigned-outrage press statements four years ago relate directly to those old sayings: “talk the talk, but then walk the walk” and “don’t make promises you can’t (or know you won’t) keep”.

Since that bombshell leak four years ago, both developed and developing nations around the Earth have lost trillions of dollars in tax revenue due to the ongoing operations of the tax haven/evasion industry (and it is an industry, facilitated by the world’s most powerful accounting, legal, and banking companies), at the same time suffering the severe economic effects of the now world-recognized term austerity.

“The ability of multinational companies (MNC) to have subsidiaries in many different countries, including in tax havens, create the opportunity for MNCs to shift a lot of profit to those jurisdictions. As you know, whatever can be priced can also be mis-priced. So, as a result a lot of income that could normally be recognized in developing countries ends up being recognized in the tax havens, where the big MNCs have their subsidiaries.”

That statement describes only the tip of the iceberg with regard to the variety of complex, engineered financial products readily available for high-net-worth individuals and corporations wanting to escape “unavoidable, certain-for-all taxes”.

“It’s the sheer unfairness, that if you’re very rich, or if you’re a multinational corporation, you don’t have to pay tax automatically like the rest of us do. But it’s almost become a voluntary activity – you choose to pay. You don’t pay based on your income, based on the profits you make. And that just is felt to be deeply unfair.”

The City of London is the epicenter of the international tax haven industry, where financial engineering takes place resulting in sometimes perfectly legal, sometimes criminal, complex accounting schemes involving banks in British-controlled Cayman Islands, Jersey, British Virgin Islands, and other UK-enabled tax evasion jurisdictions.  The Queen’s head/image is on the stamps used by residents in these tax havens, so this corrupt financial industry receives the support of, and is encouraged, at the highest levels of the British government. Perhaps British Prime Minister David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth would conduct a joint public TV address to the people of England and the world, explaining just where the “honorable” process of eliminating “totally unacceptable, fundamentally unfair tax evasion” stands today.

People in nations around the Earth are anxiously anticipating such an address/progress report on tax haven elimination successes, and respectfully ask for more specificity than “we’re working on it”. U.S. Senator and candidate for President of the United States Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren have been outspoken on the issue of tax havens and tax evasion. The issue greatly affects Americans and people everywhere in the world, so all candidates for President must – either voluntarily or forced by taxpayers/voters – forthrightly share their opinions and potential solutions.

“The main hope of developing countries have to come out of the economic deprivation, the poverty, the lack of human rights, is to attract technology, attract investments, and to make decisions that are important for their economies. But, if in the process of doing so, developing countries have to give up their fiscal sovereignty, have to give tax concessions to MNCs to locate there, have to agree to coercive corporations and tax treaties, then it is not fair to the developing countries. And that’s why tax justice matters.”

“In the UK and Europe, especially, we’ve been facing years of austerity politics. We’ve seen our public services cut, and al because, as they repeatedly tell us, ‘there is no money’. But clearly, it’s just that companies are choosing not to pay tax, and governments are not doing enough to collect it.”

“The next big threat comes from tax wars. That is, the political pressure to compete on tax and regulation. The risk here is that of a global race to the bottom, which will destroy democracy.”

Join the global movement for tax justice at: www.taxjustice.net 

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(Thank you to Tax Justice Network at YouTube)

Storytellers Of Tall Trickle Down Tales.

by Jerry Alatalo

FedAlphabet How many have watched the credit card advertisements which promise “2% cash back” on all purchases without considering interest rates on the cards of 10%, 20% – or more if payments are late? According to those appearing in the short documentary film “Tales From the City”, these types of advertisements are analogous to tales told by corporate “storytellers” – lobbyists, marketers, and public relations firms – working for pharmaceutical, banking/financial services, auto, etc. corporations.

Those who earn their living promoting wealthy individuals/business entities’ interests have a strong propensity to, like messengers of inspirational thinking, “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”. Before the global economic crisis of 2007-8, they were the ones who repeated the mantra of “light touch regulation”, while Britain’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) and America’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) almost completely relaxed carrying out their authorities to regulate and prevent the crisis.

The “storytellers” somehow became successful in convincing a lot of people wealth inequality was a good thing and “the right thing to do”. Of course, “greasing the skids” with campaign contributions doesn’t hurt the efforts of the storytellers in getting legislation passed which benefits their wealthy employers. As one man in the film plainly points out: “money is not given to politicians without expectation of something in return”.

This simple process, turbo-charged with the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United allowing unlimited spending on campaigns, explains how a few weeks ago Citigroup bankers dealing in derivatives slipped in their language to repeal important Dodd-Frank legislation; in effect putting American taxpayers back on the hook for certain potentially enormous derivatives bets/transactions losses. Despite strong objection and calls to consider the Citigroup provision separately led by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and others, the derivatives provision passed along with the must-pass ‘Cromnibus” spending bill to which it became attached.

While hundreds of top banking managers/executives became prosecuted and sentenced to prison after the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980’s – a scandal which cost taxpayers 1/70th the losses in 2007-8, exactly zero executives are in jail. This despite overwhelming evidence of massive fraud safely described as “epidemic”. HSBC, the current poster boy for white-collar crime in the financial sector, is now surrounded by one more in a line of scandals resulting in nobody going to jail.

The disturbing thing about HSBC’s current scandal resulting from the release of leaked information about the bank’s facilitating large-scale tax evasion for its wealthy clients is that it took investigative journalists, not government tax authorities, to blow open the case/story. The woman nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Eric Holder as United States Attorney General – Loretta Lynch – has gotten into hot water for her earlier legal efforts in New York to protect HSBC top managers from doing time; settling for fines instead.

The fines never come from the pockets of accountable executives but from the banking institutions who come out far ahead when comparing illegal profits to penalties levied/paid. Often executives of financial institutions which have paid billions in fines end up with increased pay. Eric Holder’s time as head of the Department of Justice has seen zero banking executives convicted and jailed for financial fraud.

Instead of directing trillions of dollars of “quantitative easing” to American citizens to stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve “bailed out” financial institutions by buying their toxic mortgage-backed securities/derivatives, the cause of the crisis in 2007-8, and executives used that money to buy-back their corporation’s own stock, thereby raising the price on the stock and increasing bonuses and pay for themselves. This explains the record-setting levels on the stock exchange, but the quantitative easing funds rarely become loaned to “main street” businesses for expansion, startups, or continuing operations which grow the real economy and create jobs. Europe is close to emulating America’s quantitative easing model.

So, politicians have become “bought and paid for” then push legislation with actions toward benefitting the corporations and individuals who provide campaign donations. If those actions and laws come in the form of “structural adjustment”, “sequestration” or the commonly known term austerity, so be it. If austerity results in downward-spiraling economic contraction, lower tax revenues, public employee layoffs, higher unemployment, poverty, desperation and suicide, public service cutbacks, privatization and selling off of public utilities/assets, and intensification of those economic problems as time passes, so be it.

If it means inaction on the decades-old, global, trillion-dollar per year tax evasion industry, facilitated by the world’s largest accounting and legal firms, so be it. On the other hand, the people of Greece may leave the Euro zone, take back monetary power through creation of a public utility central bank issuing pre-euro Greek drachma currency, and arrange their economy to serve the people instead of elites who use “storytellers” to advance their interests at the expense of the 99%.

Perhaps soon a completely new, inspirational meaning will come to mind when a man or woman anywhere on Earth uses the term “so be it”.

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(Thank you to Press TV Documentaries at YouTube)

Swiss Bank HSBC: World’s 2nd Largest Has Titanic Public Relations Problem.

Posted on February 9, 2015

by Jerry Alatalo

(Comment: The question to consider while reading the following information about recently revealed Swiss banking secrecy is this: “Why has it seemingly become the job of journalists from 45 countries around the world, instead of governments, to investigate the multi-billion dollar, decades-old global tax haven/evasion industry?” Perhaps if governments got serious by offering university law and accounting graduates student loan forgiveness, adequate pay and tools to end the world’s massive tax evasion industry – enabled by the world’s largest accounting and legal firms – the world would be a better place.)

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(Thank you to the International Consortium of Investigate Journalists for the following article. For more information on Swiss Leaks, visit: www.icij.org)

Swiss Leaks lifts the veil on a secretive banking system

Gerard Ryle, Marina Walker, Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme.ICIJ’s Gerard Ryle, left, and Marina Walker Guevara with Le Monde reporters Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme. Photo: Melissa Golden/Le Monde

Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws, a new International Consortium of Investigative Journalists investigation has found.

The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion.

“We hope this will help the public understand the perils and the potential downside of so much secrecy,” said Gerard Ryle, the director of ICIJ. “What we are exposing is a world most people never get to see.”

The documents, obtained by ICIJ via the French newspaper Le Monde, show the bank’s dealings with clients engaged in a spectrum of illegal behavior, especially in hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from tax authorities. They also show bank records of famed soccer and tennis players, cyclists, rock stars, Hollywood actors, royalty, politicians, corporate executives and old-wealth families.

Find out how you can support collaborative cross-border journalism and help ICIJ continue its work.

The disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what’s known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks.

“The Consortium is at the forefront of exposing global tax avoidance, a problem world leaders recognize as a factor in growing inequality,” said Peter Bale, chief executive of the Center for Public Integrity. “The global reach of the Consortium’s network, the sophistication of its analytical tools and the rigor of its journalism allow it to tackle complex and far-reaching stories of this nature.”

HSBC, which is headquartered in London and has offices in 74 nations and territories on six continents, initially insisted that ICIJ destroy the data. Late last month, after being informed of the full extent of the reporting team’s findings, HSBC gave a final response: “We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today.”

How the offshore banking industry shelters money and hides secrets has enormous implications for societies across the globe. Academics conservatively estimate that $7.6 trillion is held in overseas tax havens, costing government treasuries at least $200 billion a year.

The secret files analyzed by ICIJ and its media partners — covering accounts up to 2007 associated with more than 100,000 individuals and legal entities from more than 200 nations — are a version of the ones the French government obtained and shared with other governments in 2010, leading to prosecutions or settlements with individuals for tax evasion in several countries.

ICIJ enlisted more than 140 journalists from 45 countries, including reporters from Le Monde, BBC, The Guardian, 60 Minutes, Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 45 other media organizations.

The reporters found in the nearly 60,000 leaked files the names of current and former politicians from Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kenya, Romania, India, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Paraguay, Djibouti, Senegal, the Philippines and Algeria, among others.

“The world of offshore finance and secret bank accounts is deliberately complex, driven by an intricate network that crosses multiple jurisdictions. Large-scale cross-border investigations are the only way to investigate this world in depth, and uncover the layers of secrecy,” Ryle said.

“ICIJ’s model of collaborative journalism links reporters around the world to dig deeper and tell these stories in greater detail than ever before.”

ICIJ is a non-profit news organization that provides its services to newsrooms around the world. You can support ICIJ’s work in a number of ways: