It feels like the economic system is rigged against democracy and justice and the offshore world makes it very clear that in many ways it is.
I didn’t discover the world of offshore and kleptocracy myself. It was my sister, Darcy Tuttle, who first explained it to me. Her work got her interested in the details of money laundering scandals. One day, she started explaining to me the role of London-based financial intuitions in these schemes – I happened to be studying abroad at Oxford at the time – and I was dumbfounded.
How could a county with a robust democracy and strong rule of law serve also as a hub of transnational crime and corruption? While champion democracy around the world, rich countries and their peripheries where undermining it through their financial and legal infrastructure. The hypocrisy of it ate at me.
I started voraciously reading all the stories I could find from organizations like OCCRP, ICIJ, Transparency International, Global Financial Integrity and the Kleptocracy Initiative and from journalists like Oliver Bullough. I began to learn how offshore influences almost every part of global politics and economics.
I discovered how not only the U.K. but also the United States was engaged in this hypocrisy – except the hypocrisy was even worse in the U.S. While maintaining a reputation for the most aggressive anti-money laundering enforcement in the world, dirty money could easily flow into the U.S. as a direct result of the laws of states like Delaware and Nevada.
When it came time to write a senior honors thesis, I knew I had to write about that hypocrisy and the political system in the U.S. that sustained it. I decided I wanted to bring data to bear on the common assumption that U.S. states were driven by financial motives to create policies that embrace secrecy. What I found was a complex system of legal and regulatory capture of state governments in Delaware and Nevada by the professional enablers of global kleptocracy – specifically corporate lawyers and corporate service providers.
I think the topic of corrupt offshore finance is very compelling for my generation which grew up in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis and ever-rising income and wealth inequality. It feels like the economic system is rigged against democracy and justice and the offshore world makes it very clear that in many ways it is. I don’t think the next generation of leaders steeped in these events will tolerate the perpetuation of offshore by the governments of rich democracies, at least that is my hope.