Tag Archives: Information exchange

Nevada Shell Companies, Elliott and Argentina—Some Unforeseen Consequences

In an earlier post (April 2015) I wrote:

The Economist reports about Nevada shell companies. In its eternal struggle against the Republic of Argentina, Elliott Management is inquiring about several shell companies in the state. They are suspected to own funds that might have been stolen from the Republic. The hedge fund reasons that it is entitled to those funds because they belong to Argentina, and Argentina owes 2 billion dollars to Elliott according to earlier court rulings. Elliott sued in Nevada for information on the shell companies and has been partially successful.

Now, The Economist reports about some unforeseen consequences of the earlier ruling and the “Panama Papers affair”:

Until now, getting information on clients of law firms in Panama has been [difficult]. … But sleuths may soon find it a lot easier, thanks to a court ruling in, of all places, Las Vegas.

In 2014 Elliott, a fund that owned debt on which Argentina had defaulted, sued in Nevada to compel Mossack’s local affiliate to provide information on shell companies, in the hope of discovering Argentine assets to seize. The affiliate, MF Nevada, claimed—implausibly—that it was independent of Mossack. …

A judge in Las Vegas ruled in March 2015 that Mossack and MF Nevada were one and the same. That put a crack in the wall of secrecy around American shell companies. But its full significance is only now becoming apparent: it means that, under an American law about assisting with foreign legal proceedings, any investigator anywhere in the world can subpoena Mossack, through the Nevada subsidiary, for information that could be relevant to cases in any country. …

Faced with the power of American subpoenas, Mossack’s head office will find it much harder to stonewall foreign requests for information. Ignoring them could mean being found in contempt of court. That would leave it open to penalties designed to compel it to comply, including asset seizures, in other countries where it operates.


The End of Bank Secrecy?

Jeevan Vasagar and Vanessa Houlder report in the FT about the pledge by 51 countries to facilitate the collection and exchange of information on bank accounts and the beneficial ownership of companies and other legal structures. The agreement was drawn up by the OECD and previously endorsed by the G20. Going forward, the countries involved seek a consensus on the treatment of intellectual property income.

Christoph Eisenring in the NZZ and the FAZ provide additional information. Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands signed the accord; Switzerland and Singapore promised to follow soon; Panama and the US didn’t. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble declared the end of bank secrecy. While not signing the agreement the US is credited for helping to make it possible, due to the FATCA treaties is has signed with many countries. Those treaties also stipulate an automatic exchange of tax information. However, so far the US has not produced the legal base to provide such information to foreign governments.