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Scott Michel Discusses the Lack of Americans Named in Panama Papers with The American Lawyer

July 29, 2016, The American Lawyer

The American Lawyer spoke with Scott D. Michel concerning the lack of American clients appearing in the Panama Papers while countless high profile citizens from all over the world were embarrassed when the papers were leaked. For the complete article, please visit The American Lawyer's website (subscription required).

Excerpt taken from the article.

More fundamentally, to focus on foreign tax evasion misapprehends America's problem with financial crime enforcement. In the past eight years, the U.S. has won a cascade of unsung victories over offshore tax evasion. Where America lags behind the world is in certain theaters of the war on money laundering.

Mossack's Ramon Fonseca outright told the Associated Press that "we prefer not to have American clients." Tax experts like Scott Michel of Caplin & Drysdale think that's "because the U.S. is perceived as being incredibly aggressive in enforcing its tax laws offshore."

In February 2009 the U.S. forced UBS to reveal thousands of secret Swiss bank accounts as part of a criminal settlement. The next month, Treasury's first Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Program offered criminal amnesty and finite penalties in return for disclosure. "UBS sort of blew the doors open," says Michel. "Practitioners' phones started ringing off the hook."

. . .

"What's been accomplished is remarkable both in terms of breadth and speed," says Michel. "Anybody who thinks you can hide money now has to worry about criminal investigations, civil cases, whistle blowers, information exchanges, media leaks, voluntary disclosures and FATCA cooperation. The U.S. government has basically eliminated bank secrecy for fiscal purposes. It should be extremely proud."

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