Jersey’s getting tetchy

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I received this mail yesterday. Well, to be precise, it was forwarded to me. Either way it turned up in my in box:

A CSFI round-table discussion on 'Moving Money'. To be held Thursday, June 5, 2014, from 12:30-2:15pm. 

"Moving Money: International financial flows, taxes & money laundering". A round-table discussion on their recent paper, with the authors Richard Gordon (Case Western Reserve) and Andrew Morriss (Texas A&M), and with Geoff Cook (Jersey Finance).

To be held on Thursday, June 5, 2014, from 12:30-2:15.
At the London Capital Club, 15 Abchurch Lane, London, EC4N 7BW.

With support from Jersey Finance

Offshore financial centres don't get an easy ride. To most politicians, many journalists and the vast majority of social activists, they are the work of the devil inherently dodgy, facilitators of various forms of illegitimate tax evasion, corrupt, and anathema to all left-leaning liberals.

Of course, there is an alternative point of view one that says OFCs are a rational, market-driven response to regulatory imperfections that would otherwise create massive economic inefficiencies, and that we all benefit from the competition that they introduce, particularly on tax.

The problem is that opponents of OFCs often have the best tunes. Organisations like the multinational Tax Justice Network have had enormous success at creating a climate in which OFCs are a priori illegitimate, and pop authors like James Henry ("The Blood Bankers") and John Perkins ("Confessions of an Economic Hitman") have further demonized them.

So, what have OFCs done to defend themselves ? Well, one of the more interesting initiatives was a pretty rigorous academic exercise, funded in part by Jersey Finance. Jersey itself is, without a doubt, one of the most regulatory compliant financial centres in the world onshore or off. But like many other OFCs, it is caricatured in many people's eyes as yet another 'sunny place for shady people'. Changing that perception is tough particularly given that it is more fun to bash OFCs than to praise them. Still, it is worth a try. And, as part of a broader attempt to change the terms of debate from political name-calling to a more balanced appraisal of pros and cons, Jersey Finance decided to support the work of two distinguished US academics:

  • Richard Gordon is director of the Institute of Global Security Law and Policy, and a professor of law, at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. He is a former deputy director of the international tax programme at Harvard Law, and was senior counsel at the IMF ˆ where he also served on the Fund's Task Force on Terrorist Finance. In other words, he is an all-world expert on global tax,
  • Andrew Morriss is the dean designate at Texas A&M's law school, having served as the Paul & Charlene James professor of law at the University of Alabama. In addition to his legal qualifications, he has an MPA from the University of Texas and a PhD in economics from MIT. So, no slouch...

The paper by Richard and Andrew is a hefty piece of work. To download a copy of the paper, please click here Basically, it posits that those (eg the TJN) who see OFCs as inherently illegitimate work from the negative premise that governments have an obligation to control financial flows of all sorts ˆ and that they have a right to take as much of those flows for their own purposes as they see fit. Those who see OFCs as a market-driven response to overweening governments work from the very different premise that individuals and corporates have a right to organize their affairs, within the law, to maximize economic and financial efficiency.

Their report isn't a specific endorsement of Jersey (which, I think, only gets one mention, in passing). But it is a defence of the way OFCs have developed to increase the efficiency of the global financial system. As such, it is (I think) an important contribution to the literature  and a powerful rejoinder to the TJN et al

This is obviously why Jersey Finance supported the report  and why it has agreed to fly the two authors over to London to explain their argument, and to defend their position that OFCs contribute massively to global economic and financial health. I am delighted to be able to be able to offer them a chance to put their case  as I am also delighted that Geoff Cook, CEO of Jersey Finance, has agreed to explain why he supported the work. He has been actively promoting Jersey's finance industry for the last seven years, since leaving HSBC (where he was head of wealth management).

This is a contentious area, and  even though their report is a serious and balanced piece of academic work I cannot imagine that Richard and Andrew will get things all their own way. If you would like to join us for what I am sure will be a lively discussion, please let us know by emailing anna@csfi.org or by calling 020 7621 1056. As usual, wine and sandwiches will be provided  but, this time, thanks to the generosity of Jersey Finance, they will be much nicer than usual.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Hilton
Director
CSFI

It was just too amusing not to share in full.

And never let it be said these guys aren't paranoid.