U.S. states Nevada, Wyoming and Delaware are facing growing pressure to address their lack of corporate transparency, as the United States and the international community continue to respond to fallout from the Panama Papers.
At a London anti-corruption summit on Thursday, representatives from the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Isle of Man warned that the “hypocrisy” of the U.S. was hurting the global push for greater financial transparency.
The summit, hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron and attended by leaders and high-ranking officials from around the world, has drawn increased public attention after the Panama Papers investigation by ICIJ, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 media partners revealed new details about how the world’s rich and powerful use and sometimes abuse secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry compared the threat posed by corruption to the threat posed by terrorism, and urged attendees to work together in the fight for transparency.
“Corruption, writ large, is as much of an enemy, because it destroys nation states, as some of the extremists we are fighting or the other challenges we face,” he said.
But the U.S. came under fire from some of the smaller jurisdictions at the conference for not doing enough to combat financial opacity at home.
Cayman Islands premier Alden McLaughlin warned that if the U.S. and other larger jurisdictions didn’t comply with stricter rules being imposed on the rest of the world, then “all the shady business is going to migrate to Delaware, Wyoming, Panama, you name it.”
“It is time to put behind us the shades of hypocrisy that have been part and parcel of global discussion of this issue for years and years. So long as countries with real commitments on the world stage continue to focus on jurisdictions that are smaller in size while ignoring the larger jurisdictions, the results will be continued failure,” he said.
The U.S. states of Wyoming and Nevada both came under closer scrutiny from within the United States earlier in the week, when Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the secretaries of state for the two states, demanding more information about how the companies revealed in the Panama Papers are regulated.
"I have become increasingly concerned about the use of anonymous shell companies as vehicles for terrorists financing, tax evasion, and fraud targeting major government programs," Wyden wrote.
The senator’s letters were one of a number of responses from global authorities and governments following the publication of Panama Papers data and continued investigation from ICIJ’s partners: