Today’s long-expected announcement that the European Union has assessed that Apple owes €13 Billion ($14.5 Billion) in back taxes to Ireland and the EU, is only one part of a much larger story of multinational corporations global tax jurisdiction and tax avoidance, and a looming fight between the EU and US over which one gets the €13 Billion. There is not much disagreement whether Apple actually owes the money. It also reopens the as yet unresolved matter of multinational corporate taxation, most recently exposed by Pfizer’s announcement that it would move its HQ to Ireland to avoid U.S. taxation, which was later blocked by the U.S. government.

Advertisements

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has quit an advisory panel to Panama’s government set up after the Panama Papers scandal. Some 11.5m documents, leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed huge offshore tax evasion.The government appointed a panel to look at Panama’s financial practices. But Mr Stiglitz and and Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, who also quit, said government interference in their work amounted to “censorship”. The seven-person panel also included Panamanian experts. “I thought the government was more committed, but obviously they’re not,” Mr Stiglitz told Reuters news agency. “It’s amazing how they tried to undermine us.”

I am sharing this because of its particular relevance to the ongoing revelations about connections between global tax evasion shell companies and real estate markets: London, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Vancouver.

The release of the Panama Papers is of such potential significance and magnitude that it is difficult to know where to begin. I have decided that I will begin with the most interesting and relevant topic for me, the Canadian angle: possible links from Mossack Fonseca’s tax haven shell companies to the Vancouver BC real estate market, the current Canada Revenue Agency investigation of KPMG’s Canadian offshore tax haven scheme, and potential conflicts of interest within CRA. The KPMG and CRA issues have been extensively investigated and reported by CBC News, and also discussed on this site.

In a continuation of the story first reported by the CBC some months ago, and also reported here, the CBC has discovered a secret CRA amnesty offer to fifteen wealthy KPMG Canadian clients. There is no “quid pro quo” included in the amnesty offer, requiring that the individuals provide evidence or testimony in the current CRA case against KPMG in the Courts. It should be noted that the UK government is also pursuing prosecutions of at least four KPMG partners in the United Kingdom. KPMG settled out of court in a similar case in the United States. The Swiss government has also successfully prosecuted UBS for a similar tax haven scheme.

This is one of the better mainstream media analyses on the growing concern regarding Global Financial Contagion. Reblogged from The Guardian (UK) The author, Paul Mason is economics editor of Channel 4 News. @paulmasonnews.
‘The biggest risk is not deflation of a bubble. It is the risk of that becoming intertwined with geopolitics.’

This is a metaphorical essay on personal ethics, worthy of a serious read and contemplation. When I saw the title I was intrigued but suspected it had something to do with Andy Grove’s adage, “sewage flows downhill,” which means “if anything bad happens it will eventually flow down to you.” This is about ethics. The points made here are particularly apt in light of the huge number and sheer scale of recent business frauds: the Volkswagen fraud, LIBOR, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, Conrad Black in Canada, Olympus in Japan, Bernie Ebbers and Worldcom, Tyco International, stretching back all the way to Enron, Michael Milken’s junk bonds, and the 1980’s savings & loan debacle.

Liar’s Poker is one of those books one of your friends strongly urges you to read. A short little book, the recommendation I got from Bill Howe, my Canadian Intel colleague in Europe, was that it was a hilarious read. And so it was. It reads like Animal House. Michael Lewis also recently wrote The Big Short, his analysis of the 2008 financial meltdown. Liar’s Poker has been described as a comedy, and The Big Short as a tragedy, which seems very apt to me if you have heard Michael discuss both books. Many may know Michael best for his recent success with Moneyball.