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Big Data and Tax Haven Secrecy

Arthur J. Cockfield

Abstract


While there is now significant literature in law, politics, economics, and other disciplines that examines tax havens, there is little information on what tax haven intermediaries—so-called offshore service providers— actually do to facilitate offshore evasion, international money laundering, and the financing of global terrorism. To provide insight into this secret world of tax havens, this Article relies on the Author’s study of big data derived from the financial data leak obtained by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). A hypothetical involving Breaking Bad’s Walter White is used to explain how offshore service providers facilitate global financial crimes. A transaction cost perspective assists in understanding the information and incentive problems revealed by the ICIJ data leak, including how tax haven secrecy enables elites in nondemocratic countries to transfer their monies for ultimate investment in stable democratic countries. The approach also emphasizes how, even in a world of perfect information, political incentives persist that thwart cooperative efforts to inhibit global financial crimes.


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Published by the University of Florida Press on behalf of the University of Florida Levin College of Law.