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Panama Papers – Revisited

The Panama Papers investigation provides much (course) material, and its publishers are justifiably proud (e.g., see this TED talk). Using a grading rubric for some of my courses, I offer the following brief assessment without summary numerical scores, especially reminded of the power of the U.S. DoJ in the Zarrab indictment:

  1. Timeliness – the story broke, peaked, and is presently ebbing outside of the U.S. election cycle. The U.S. matters a lot. See Zarrab for the potential reach of its prosecutors. Where U.S. dollars are used, the DoJ may lurk nearby, rightly or wrongly.
  2. Originality – Panama has long been under the purview of the DEA. Its notorious acceptance of U.S. dollars to facilitate transactions has been especially helpful to those (inside and) outside of law and regulation. Concealment as a means to further wrongdoing is not new.
  3. Accuracy – this is the publishers’ highest level of achievement. The documentation and follow-up, including making the files available online in the public domain are admirable actions.
  4. Completeness – the results and outcomes from the Panama Papers publication have not to date approached its publicity. See the anonymous whistleblower’s statement. The mainstream focus on venues outside of the U.S. masks what should be the key finding of the Papers: U.S. dollars are used and concealed globally (i.e., domestically and internationally from the perspective of the U.S.) in nefarious schemes lacking transparency notwithstanding the apparent involvement of public officials with the private sector.

As such way more could be done, including rewriting laws and regulations and dedicating more public sector resources in inspection and oversight to provide assurance that ethics and integrity (e.g., honest services) in the provision of public and private sector goods and services characterize the winners (cf. official conduct) in the socioeconomic games commonly known as development and redevelopment.


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