The Wall Street Journal has some really interesting evidence that much of the hoo-ha surrounding the Panama Papers data leak is irrelevant to the real trend toward accountability. The Journal makes it clear that the leader in this process has been the US because of the country’s crackdown on terrorist financing.
But transparency is taking hold because countries have begun to see the revenue potential in taxing those seeking havens. Those same countries, like Switzerland, have also become aggressive prosecutors. The Journal points to the unfolding Malaysian scandal surround 1MDB which has touched the art market in the most tangential fashion:
Business at the Panamanian law firm where the papers allegedly originated has been tumbling for a decade as global regulators led by the U.S. cracked down on offshore tax havens and money laundering. The firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co., incorporated 13,287 offshore companies in 2005 but just 4,341 in 2015, a decline of two-thirds. In the past three years, according to the Panama Papers, clients of the firm have incorporated 16,323 companies but deactivated 28,777.
[…] Mossack Fonseca, like many other firms in this world, had a good business in bearer shares. Under this somewhat archaic structure, the shares in a business are owned by whoever possesses the physical stock certificates, allowing companies to exist without a registered owner. In 2005, the law firm represented nearly 6,000 businesses using bearer shares in Panama alone. Now the total is 170, according to the documents.