Given the massive scale of the Panama Papers whistleblower leak—terabytes of files documenting the business dealings of more than 200,000 offshore shell companies—many observers have been surprised to see that only 211 people with U.S. addresses have surfaced in the data. But while journalists working on the investigation have hinted that more Americans eventually will be implicated in tax evasion, sanctions violations, money laundering, and other financial crimes or sleight of hand, this low number actually should come as no surprise. Americans have little reason to hide money in offshore shell corporations when it is exceedingly easy to do so right here in the United States. In fact, the only place it can be easier to establish a functionally anonymous shell corporation is Kenya. The Panama Papers should serve as a wakeup call for lawmakers who have failed to implement simple disclosure rules that would dramatically increase financial transparency and accountability by applying the same open data principles that Congress has already recognized are necessary for the government.
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Image: Süddeutsche Zeitung.