News & Events

Just the FACTs: July 29, 2020

“Just the FACTs” is a round-up of news stories and information regarding efforts to combat corrupt financial practices, including offshore tax haven abuses, corporate secrecy, and the laundering of money through the financial system.

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State of Play

2020 is turning out to be an eventful year in the fight against corrupt financial practices.  

Corporate Ownership Transparency

A more than decade-long campaign to end the incorporation of anonymous shell companies in the U.S. is nearing the finish line.  National security experts and law enforcement officials have long warned that anonymous shell companies are routinely abused by rogue states, terrorists, and criminals to evade our sanctions, undermine our national security, and carry out their crimes with impunity.  Heading their advice, the U.S. House of Representatives added the Corporate Transparency Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 last week.

The must-pass defense bill now heads to conference negotiations between the House and the Senate, where Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — the top Republican and Democrat on the key Senate Banking Committee — in collaboration with the Trump Administration and several additional Senators from both parties, recently struck an agreement on similar legislation to curb the abuse of anonymous companies and update our nation’s anti-money laundering laws.

Commenting on the passage of the House amendment last week, FACT’s interim executive director noted:

“Congress is now on track to enact historic reforms to protect our financial system from abuse. […]

“The House of Representatives has now voted twice to end anonymous companies and update our anti-money laundering laws; the top Republican and Democrat on the key Senate Banking Committee agreed on similar legislation last month; and the White House has indicated that these reforms are a priority for them this year.   

“After more than a decade of debate and inaction in Washington to bring anti-money laundering protections into the modern era, 2020 now presents an historic opportunity to improve our anti-money laundering rules, better protect local communities and companies from the harms caused by criminal and corrupt activity, and ensure the integrity of our financial system.”

Support for reform continues to build off the Hill as well.  For the first time, the powerful National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) endorsed similar beneficial ownership transparency legislation last month in a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 42 state attorneys general.  

Beyond the broad support from law enforcement officials and national security experts, the business community is increasingly voicing their support too.  In June, leading business organizations — including the U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), SafeProof, and The B Team — sent a letter to Senate leadership supporting the legislation as a means to combat the harm to businesses from illicit commerce.  In one of the most notable endorsements, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, after opposing legislation to combat anonymous companies for more than a decade, sent a letter to the Senate endorsing reform in June.

Tax Transparency

Momentum continues to build both in-and-outside the beltway for multinational corporate tax transparency.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shattered the political and economic paradigms that have dominated the global debate for the past forty years; it has laid bare the ramifications of the wealth drain posed by a global race to the bottom on taxes, which have hollowed out our public health and social services and given rise to levels of economic inequality not seen since the gilded age. It has similarly exposed the national security threats posed by a tax code that encourages the outsourcing of jobs to lower wage jurisdictions,” write more than 100 non-governmental organizations in a new letter to Congress endorsing legislation (H.R. 5933 / S. 1609) requiring large, publicly-traded corporations to publicly disclose key tax and financial information on a country-by-country basis.

The groups continue: 

“Even before this crisis, copious studies found that large, multinational corporations in the United States and elsewhere use provisions in the tax code to shift profits and avoid paying taxes that they would otherwise be required to pay. […] 

“This tax haven abuse will make it much harder for federal and state agencies to help their constituents overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Such enormous revenue drain increases the pressure on lawmakers to heed the call to cut public services that are vital to a functioning economy and the COVID-19 response or unfairly shift the tax burden to other taxpayers, such as those who are less able to pay (including those suffering most from the pandemic). Either option leads to regressive fiscal regimes which exacerbate economic inequality and undermine the COVID-19 recovery effort. […] 

“Digging ourselves out of this crisis will require reversing the global wealth drain caused by tax avoidance and outsourcing. That process begins by shining a light on those abuses through enactment of the Disclosure of Tax Havens and Offshoring Act.”

Support for tax transparency was echoed by a number of leading small business trade associations in a letter to Congress this month.  Nearly 60 investment firms with more than $800 billion in assets under management likewise signaled their endorsement, in a growing sign of momentum.

A similarly diverse set of stakeholders also weighed in this spring with the Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), asking the inter-governmental body to mandate public disclosures of key tax information for multinational corporations.  Originally agreed to in 2015, the OECD is reviewing its standard on country-by-country reporting of tax information.

There are signals that this growing support for transparency is having an impact.  In December, the the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) proposed the first (albeit voluntary) worldwide standard on tax transparency.  Shortly thereafter, Royal Dutch Shell became the latest company to publicly disclose its country-by-country tax information voluntarily, leading The Wall Street Journal to call it “the Beginning of the End of Tax Secrecy.”  In February, the Chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) indicated at a Board meeting that he supports public jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction tax disclosures, and FASB is now redrafting its proposals to strengthen tax disclosures.  In March, House leadership even included public country-by-country reporting provisions for bailed-out companies in their initial COVID-19 economic stimulus proposal, and more than 80 lawmakers sent a letter to the Federal Reserve and Treasury Departments in May likewise pushing country-by-country tax transparency for companies receiving financial assistance under the CARES Act while also calling for a ban on bail-outs to “inverted” tax dodging companies.

From the FACT Coalition and Its Partners

Incorporation Transparency and Anti-Money Laundering

The FACT Coalition and Its Allies Applaud Passage of Corporate Transparency Amendment in the NDAA
July 20, 2020

On July 20, 2020, the US House of Representatives approved the first en bloc House Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 with a 336-71 vote. The en bloc amendment included House Amendment #1 (Rules Amdt #499), a combination of the previously passed Corporate Transparency Act and COUNTER Act, making the NDAA a vessel for passing beneficial ownership legislation. The FACT Coalition and other allies sent out statements of support after this vote, and are linked below.

The FACT Coalition and Partner Organizations Send Letters Encouraging US House of Representatives to Pass the Corporate Transparency Act in the NDAA
July 20, 2020

With the announcement that the Corporate Transparency Act would be included en bloc to House Amendment #1 to the National Defense Authorization Act, The FACT Coalition and its allies mobilized to send various letters to congressional leadership in support of the amendment. All letters are linked below. 

Millions in PPP Loans Went to Chinese State-Owned Companies
Project on Government Oversight (POGO), July 23, 2020 

Two tech companies owned by Chinese state-controlled private equity firms received Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loans worth, in total, between $2.4 million and $6 million, according to a review by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and the Anti-Corruption Data Collective. The loans distributed through the program, which can be forgiven in full, are meant to help struggling small businesses weather the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full report here.

FACT’s Gascoigne Speaks at Atlantic Council Event: “Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia” 
June 30, 2020

In Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, investigative journalist and Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times Catherine Belton tells a dark tale of how Vladimir Putin rose to power and consolidated his rule. Belton traces how an alliance between Putin, the KGB, and organized crime came together in St. Petersburg and expanded its influence to the Kremlin, across Russia, and eventually reaching Western markets and institutions. Belton’s extensive research reveals how Russia’s president and his allies co-opted national industries to transform a collection of wealthy entrepreneurs into a kleptocracy aided by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), seizing control of the economy to enrich only themselves under the veneer of a renewed Russian nationalism. This compelling and contemporary account of Putin’s Russia paints a grim picture of a country where freedom, private enterprise, and liberalism are forced to take a back seat to crony capitalism.

Catherine Belton, author of Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, discusses her new book alongside Philip Zelikow, White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance at the University of Virginia; Clark Gascoigne, interim executive director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition; Casey Michel, New York-based writer and journalist covering trans-national corruption and money laundering, and author of the forthcoming book American Kleptocracy; and Dr. Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, who moderates the discussion.

Watch the full event here.

FACT, Chamber of Commerce, Others Pen Letters to Congress in Support of Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020
June 30, 2020

Upon agreement between Chairman Crapo and Ranking Member Brown on legislative text to end the abuse of anonymous companies, and the filing of that agreement (known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020) as a floor amendment to the Senate’s NDAA, The FACT Coalition — along with its partners and allies — wrote letters of support to encourage Senate leadership to include the AML Act as an amendment to the NDAA. Additionally, outside organizations and groups of specialists sent their own letters in support of the AML Act. All current letters are listed and linked below.

Ad Campaign: End Anonymous Companies
Global Witness, June 25, 2020

Led in partnership with Global Witness, the FACT Coalition has launched nine ads in nine states calling on key Senators to curb human trafficking by passing the ILLICIT CASH Act. Human traffickers often manipulate the financial system and leverage anonymous shell companies to profit off the exploitation of other human beings. The ILLICIT CASH Act will address these loopholes by requiring companies to disclose beneficial ownership information and enabling law enforcement with the tools to identify and stop criminal actors. 

Listen to the full suite of ads here.

Comments to House Financial Services Committee on COVID-19 Cybercrime and Fraud
FACT Coalition, June 16, 2020

The FACT Coalition filed comments for the record to the House Financial Services Committee regarding a Virtual Hearing titled “Cybercriminals and Fraudsters: How Bad Actors Are Exploiting the Financial System During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” on June 16th, 2020. FACT emphasizes that banning incorporation of anonymous companies is key in order to build stronger anti-money laundering safeguards and crackdown on cybercrime and fraud. In addition, FACT urges Congress to move forward with the ILLICIT Cash Act (S.2563) in ensuring American people are protected from the cybersecurity and fraud threats that anonymous companies impose. 

Read the comments in full here.

Who is Opening the Gates for Kleptocrats?
Transparency International, June 11, 2020

Last week, a new investigation led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) uncovered what appears to be a similar story. Journalists revealed the real estate and business empires of Anar Mahmudov and Nargiz Mahmudova – the children of Eldar Mahmudov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of National Security between 2003 and 2015. Before becoming a minister, Eldar Mahmudov led the economic crime unit within the Ministry of Internal Affairs for a decade.

Read the full article here.

Money Laundering Matters (and Law Enforcement is Failing)
Global Financial Integrity, June 3, 2020

Law enforcement, policymakers and the media often get distracted with the immediacy of criminal behavior. With 60-second video clips on the evening news discussing the lurid details of sex trafficking, families torn apart by drugs or gang violence, citizens and politicians become alarmed. Law enforcement reacts and cracks down, but the criminal organizations re-group and move on. It’s a vicious cycle.

Financial crimes and abusive tax evasion practiced by elites also contribute to the deterioration of societal relations. Worldwide, distrust in financial elites has reached an apex, coupled with (if not driven by) multiple high-level corruption scandals and a corresponding absence of accountability. Corruption is a great facilitator. Increasing anger and systematic inequality are common themes in both advanced and developing economies.

Read the full article here.


Apple’s EU Ruling Underscores Need to Change Laws to Combat Tax Avoidance
FACT Coalition, July 15, 2020

On Wednesday, a European Union court overturned a 2016 decision that found that Apple had received illegal tax breaks from Ireland.  Wednesday’s decision from the EU’s second-highest court nullified the earlier ruling, which would have required Apple to pay €13 billion in back taxes to Ireland.  

Read FACT’s full statement here.

A Response to the European Court’s Bad Apple Ruling
Tax Justice Network, July 15, 2020

Today’s Apple decision confirms that the European Union’s rules against state aid are not up to the job of preventing EU member states operating as tax havens. Powerful tax justice reforms are needed, rather than broader application of state aid rules. Neither the EU nor any other countries will be able to raise the revenues needed to invest in health services and to fight the pandemic, if the scourge of corporate tax abuse is not challenged head-on. 

Read the full story here.

Apple Judgement Shows EU Must Immediately Address Corporate Tax Reforms
Oxfam, July 15, 2020

“Despite today’s ruling, there is no disputing the fact that Apple received significant tax reductions through tax rulings issued by the Irish tax authorities.”

“Cases such as this highlight the extreme nature of corporate tax avoidance in the EU, costing governments hundreds of billions of Euros every year – money that could be used to deliver essential services, such as health and child care, which are even more critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now time for the European Commission to bring in effective measures to address the continued existence of corporate tax avoidance.”

Read the full statement here.

FACT and Oxfam Comment on USTR’s Consultation on Initiation of Section 301 Investigations of Digital Services Taxes
FACT Coalition and Oxfam America, July 15, 2020

The FACT Coalition and Oxfam penned a joint comment on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Investigations of Digital Services Taxes, encouraging the agency to not take action against jurisdictions that adopt digital services taxes.

Read the full comment here.

New Bill Would Prevent COVID Aid from Bailing Out “Inverted” Corporations
FACT Coalition, June 24, 2020

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced legislation to prevent the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department from providing coronavirus financial assistance to “inverted” companies — U.S. domestic corporations that moved their official headquarters offshore for the primary purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes.

Read the full statement from the FACT Coalition here.

The EU’s Role in Fighting the Inequality Virus
Oxfam, June 5, 2020

New research published by Oxfam today shows that half a billion people could be pushed into poverty if governments don’t take urgent action on COVID-19 now. In Europe and Central Asia alone, the number of people living in poverty could increase by 6.2 million to 13.1 million; however, governments cannot hope to protect the most vulnerable members of the global community without fair taxation policies that hold all actors accountable for paying their fair share. This blog includes recommendations on actions that the EU and European Central Bank should take to ensure that no one is left behind in the coronavirus recovery. 

Read the full blog here.

Public Funding Drove Development of All Five White House Vaccine Picks
Public Citizen, June 4, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration’s short-listed picks for a COVID-19 candidate vaccine all have benefited from substantial public funding by federal agencies and foreign governments, a Public Citizen report found.

Public Citizen, Oxfam and hundreds of other organizations have called for transparency, affordability conditions and vaccine technology transfer – global sharing of vaccine-related knowledge and the licensing of patents and other proprietary rights to the public – so that a safe and effective vaccine can be produced by qualified manufacturers around the world and made accessible to all.

Read the full article here.

Comments to High Level UN FACTI Panel
FACT Coalition, May 24, 2020

The FACT Coalition submitted comments to the United Nations High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel).

Read the full comments here.

The World Bank has a Tax Haven Problem
Oxfam, March 6, 2020

A report from Oxfam finds that a large portion of International Finance Corporation (IFC) public sector funds are directly deposited into tax havens. While the move is not unique when it comes to foreign investments, this decision does undermine the ability of the host country to collect much needed corporate tax revenues from companies that avoid paying taxes. Doing so also stands in stark contradiction to the World Bank’s mission under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call on governments to support access to critical social services – efforts that cannot be realized without the ability to mobilize domestic funds through fair taxation policy.

Read the full article here.

Issues in the News

Incorporation Transparency & Anti-Money Laundering

FBI Concerned Over Laundering Risks in Private Equity, Hedge Funds – Leaked Document
Reuters, July 14, 2020

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation believes firms in the nearly $10-trillion private investment funds industry are being used as vehicles for laundering money at scale, according to a leaked intelligence bulletin prepared by the agency in May.

Read the full story here. 

Kansas AG Urges US Senate to Pass Money Laundering Reform Bill
The Morning Sun, July 3, 2020

By: Jonathan Riley

Following the DOJ indictment against the Labette County Oswego Community Hospital, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a press release joining over 40 other AGs in endorsing the ILLICIT CASH Act – a piece of legislation preceding the Crapo / Brown Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020. As the letter notes, having federal support for beneficial ownership disclosures will allow state-level law enforcement to better prosecute corporate criminals operating in their backyards. 

Read the full article here.

Congress Must Get Anti-Money Laundering Amendment Into Defense Bill
Washington Examiner, July 1, 2020

By: Tom Rogan

America has long been a prized safe haven for illicit cash. Put another way, this nation is an ideal target for money launderers. But whereas the Department of Justice has robust means to prosecute money launderers once they are identified, the absence of a beneficial ownership register means that many hostile actors avoid triggering an investigation in the first place by hiding in a sea of names. Criminals and hostile state actors (such as China, Iran, and Russia) use shell companies to hide ownership interests.

That’s what this register aims to stop. Were it signed into law, the register would be housed under the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Adding the amendment should be a no-brainer. And for many Democrats, Republicans, and the White House (which supports the amendment), it is.

Read the full article here.

Brown Urges Senate Action on Bipartisan Anti-Money Laundering Amendment to NDAA
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, July 1, 2020

By: Sen. Sherrod Brown

Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senator Brown, released a statement calling on colleagues to support passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020. Saying “money laundering is never a victimless crime,” Sen. Brown urged the importance of working across party lines to ensure law enforcement has the tools necessary to hold financial criminals accountable. 

Read the full statement here.

Regaining U.S. Global Leadership in Anti-Corruption
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 1, 2020

By Abigail Bellows

U.S. security, economic, and political interests demand a greater focus on countering corruption internationally. In the latest paper from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the organization outlines steps that the next presidential administration must take to make meaningful strides against corruption globally. This includes steps on mainstreaming anti-corruption efforts, preventing corruption from becoming weaponized, and enabling the U.S. to lead in anti-corruption efforts, among others. 

Read the full paper here.

Point of View: End Anonymous Shell Companies to Crack Down on Human Trafficking
The Oklahoman, June 30, 2020

By: Allyson Shortle and Andrea Benjamin

Tulsa’s “Operation Velvet Fury” is just one example of the way that human traffickers leverage illicit financial methods to profit from the exploitation of human beings, including Oklahoma residents. In many cases, criminal enterprises leverage anonymous shell companies such as massage parlors to disguise illegal business dealings and side-step law enforcement. Professors Shortle and Benjamin call on Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Tulsa) to support the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 – a bill designed to stop criminals like human traffickers from manipulating U.S. financial systems to facilitate heinous crimes. 

Read the full article here.

Senators Look to Add Shell Company Reporting to Defense Bill
Bloomberg Law, June 29, 2020

By: Jacob Rund and Lydia Beyoud

Several members of the Senate Banking Committee have reached a bipartisan agreement on anti-money laundering legislation that would introduce new transparency into the ownership of anonymous shell companies. Introduced by Sens Crapo (R-Idaho) and Brown (D-Ohio), the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would require newly created companies and limited liability corporations (LLCs) to send ownership details to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which would maintain a non-public database that law enforcement could use to better track the flow of illicit funds through opaque legal entities.

Read the full article here.

Money Laundering Loophole Allows China’s Shell Companies to Attack and Steal from U.S.
The Washington Times, June 28, 2020

By: Nate Sibley

America’s lax financial transparency laws are being manipulated by foreign criminal actors, including those in China. This poses a threat to U.S. national security as Chinese political families and corporate networks take advantage of the financial system to profit from the criminal exchange of counterfeit goods, drugs, and human beings. The ILLICIT CASH Act poses a critical solution to closing these loopholes and shoring up American vulnerabilities at home and abroad. 

Read the full article here.

Press Release: Three Charged in $180 Million Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme
U.S. Department of Justice, June 12, 2020

An indictment against three individuals for their alleged involvement in various schemes to defraud Medicare, TRICARE, and private insurance companies, and their conspiracy to launder the proceeds has been unsealed today.  The conduct allegedly resulted in more than $180 million in fraudulent billings. 

…the defendants allegedly conspired to and engaged in a scheme to solicit and pay kickbacks and bribes to marketers, physicians, other medical providers, and beneficiaries to refer, prescribe, and receive prescriptions for medically unnecessary compound medications. The defendants also allegedly conspired to and engaged in a scheme to launder the proceeds of their fraudulent activity by concealing the proceeds they obtained and conducting monetary transactions of a value greater than $10,000, including the purchase of numerous assets, such as real estate, luxury automobiles, a three-carat diamond, and other high-priced goods.

Read the full press release here.


The Wealthy Can’t Stop Not Paying Their Taxes
Washington Post, July 15, 2020

The Internal Revenue Service is one of the few government agencies that make money. For every 33 cents in its budget, the I.R.S. collects $100. Its budget-to-revenue ratio ranks among the lowest for tax collection agencies in the world. This “tax gap” — recent estimates pegged it at $381 billion a year between 2011 and 2013 — comes from people and businesses that underreport their income, pay less than what they owe or owe taxes but simply don’t file a return. 

As the government looks for ways to keep Americans afloat during the recession, Congress can’t afford to keep the I.R.S.’s hands tied. Authorizing the agency’s 2021 budget request in full is the least the government can do to make sure every taxpayer — especially the rich ones — pay their fair share.

Read the full op-ed here.

Facing the Crisis: The Role of Tax in Dealing with COVID-19
International Monetary Fund, June 16, 2020

By Vitor Gaspar, Navid Hanif, and Pascal Saint-Amans

The current crisis is a global challenge that requires a global response. International tax cooperation must be part and parcel of a set of effective and well-coordinated multilateral actions to respond to the crisis. In order to expand the fiscal space, it is more urgent than ever to work together to fight tax evasion and tax avoidance, including illicit financial flows. At the same time, it has never been more important to move towards a fairer and more equitable taxation of economic activities at the global level. 

Read the full article here.

ICRICT Report: “The Global Pandemic, Sustainable Economic Recovery, and International Taxation” 
Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), June 15, 2020

Reductions in corporation tax ‘to stimulate reconstruction investment’ will be neither economically effective nor socially desirable. Rather, corporate tax systems should be strengthened by accelerating truly inclusive international cooperation on base erosion and minimum rates, by making these taxes more progressive to stimulate small firms, and by ensuring effective taxation of the offshore wealth of shareholders. 

The report lists five steps governments can take to tackle tax avoidance ―which has left governments with fewer resources to meet critical priorities in the wake of the pandemic― end the era of tax havens and the ‘race to the bottom’ on corporate taxation.

Read the full report here.

Tax Justice is More Important than Ever
International Politics and Society, June 15, 2020

By Neeti Biyani

The impacts of this pandemic will be long-lasting and how we respond to the crises now and in their aftermath will profoundly shape our collective future. The short-term response to the crises as well as longer-term reconstruction efforts (especially of public services) require domestic resources – and investments in tune of billions of dollars across the globe. Particularly hard hit are countries from the Global South, which were cash-strapped to begin with.

Read the full blog here.

Exclusive: U.S. Taxpayers’ Virus Relief Went to Firms that Avoided U.S. Taxes
Reuters, May 28, 2020

By: Tom Bergin, Lawrence Delevingne

Of 110 publicly-traded companies that have received loans of $4 million or more from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), 12 recently leveraged tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of domestic taxes, a recent Reuters investigation finds. Despite receiving $104 million in loans from the federal government, seven of these companies failed to pay any taxes in the U.S. in the past year, which another 39 companies leveraged other mechanisms to sidestep their corporate tax bill. 

Read the article in full here.