With the Hudson Institute's Kleptocracy Initiative, I wrote/podcasted on the anniversary of the Panama Papers - and how the U.S. has bucked efforts to increase transparency in its own offshore industry:
But where we’ve seen progress toward an accurate beneficial ownership registry in London, or increased willingness to share financial information out of Panama City, one jurisdiction looms as an atypical example where little has changed since the Panama Papers revelations. Even before Mossack Fonseca’s operations leaked to a global audience, the United States existed as one of the foremost global offshore havens – especially as it pertained to shell company formation, with Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming competing with traditional offshore businesses in a race to the bottom for corporate transparency.
Twelve months later, little has changed. This is due, in part, to the fact that no high-level Americans were caught in the Panama Papers revelations. But it was already known that notorious arms dealers like Viktor Bout and outsized kleptocrats like Pavlo Lazarenko had prior accessed American shell companies, and that the US was already perhaps the worst jurisdiction globally for regulating shell companies. Likewise, the dearth of any post-Panama Papers push toward transparency in the U.S. came despite the fact that Mossack Fonseca advertised Nevada and Wyoming directly to clients – an arrangement that benefitted these two states. As the Wyoming secretary of state’s office noted in the aftermath of the Panama Papers leak, pushing back against the idea that they would support any reform, “We are not naive as to the importance of the release of these ‘Panama Papers,’ but we will not compromise the privacy of our customer.”