Tax Havens, Foreign Corruption and Bank Secrecy — One Big Global Problem — Better U.S. Corporate Oversight Needed.

Recent developments concerning disclosure of Apple’s alleged sheltering of $7 trillion dollars in offshore tax havens and Wal-Mart’s foreign bribery scandal in Mexico raise three inter-related issues: tax havens, foreign corruption, and offshore banking secrecy.
Together these issues  feed into grave global problems concerning illegal financial transactions, funneling funds to outlaw states and non state actors, providing cover for massive investor fraud, and financing transactions impacting fiscal stability of the global financial system.
What is the solution? In part the solution is to adopt more aggressive U.S. legislation applicable to U.S. and foreign firms in their conduct of international transactions.
This legislation should provide for more corporate financial transparency and general disclosure. This would assist in the greater enforceability of corporate law and corporate responsibility globally. This more stringent U.S. legislation is in the economic and national security interests of the United States as well as in the interests of U.S. investors and corporations.
This national approach does not rule out global and multilateral efforts by the OECD, G-20, G-8 or others, but those take time. Unilateral actions by the United States in this economic and business spere are warranted.
The global community will follow our lead, eventually. Just look at the way U.S. policies (the enactment of the Foreign Corruption Practices Act) toward global corporate corruption in the late 1970s led to international action by the OECD in the late 1990s. The same is happening to a limited degree now concerning the tough U.S. financial and tax policies toward Switzerland, UBS and Credit Suisse.
Enron, Bernie Madoff, the Great Recession and now Apple and Wal-Mart make tax havens, foreign corporate corruption and global bank secrecy simply intolerable in this ever-globalizing world. Not only do they distort global trade flows they also negatively impact the U.S. domestic system and those of other countries.
It’s good policy and good law for the United States to legislate good corporate behavior and to enforce vigorously corporate responsibility globally.

About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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