“The Pandora Papers documents — more than 11.9 million records from 14 offshore entities, including law and wealth-management firms — illuminate a hidden world that has allowed government leaders, a monarch, billionaires and criminals to shield their assets.”
The Pandora Papers hit the news yesterday. I saw the story in The Washington Post, but it was also available in other media sources. It’s not all that shocking, since we knew wealth was being hidden to avoid taxes, but the scope and complexity of the way trusts are structured and the fact that most of it is legal suggests that hoping for a balanced economy anytime soon is a pipe dream. (It is now legal in many American states to talk openly about pipe dreams.)
Not many Americans were exposed in this tranche of data, perhaps because they use different places to shelter their wealth and different lawyers to set up their irrevocable trusts. Many trust structures are so complex that flow charts and spread sheets must be used to keep track of the legal and illegal shenanigans. Maybe there are even some disorganized hoarders who lose track of all the money and assets they have stashed away. Some American states have become “islands” where assets can be stashed without penalties or oversight. South Dakota, Nevada, and others were mentioned.
The Panama Papers gave us a peek into these vast caches of assets, but the Pandora Papers exposé is “huge” (a descriptive adjective made popular by a recent impeached president). If money becomes useless and the world moves to digital money systems, will all these assets disappear? Only if the transformation takes them totally by surprise. Rumor has it that certain ancient members of Congress are trying to learn the ins and outs of bitcoin and cybercurrency.
Can we change laws enough to make these sequestered assets visible to the IRS once again? Can we do such a thing when people in our government have a vested interest in continuing to improve the Machiavellian twists that have made trusts so useful? Can we do it when all around the world powerful people are deeply invested in “creative” financing? Read all about it in your favorite media source.