Monday, November 6, 2017

ICIJ Offers a New Trove of Offshore Activity Documents -- the Paradise Papers (11/6/17)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has struck again, disclosing a cache is new documents disclosing offshore activity of the rich and famous.  ICIJ calls the new cache of documents the Paradise Papers (which distinguishes it from the old cache, the Panama Papers, and from future caches).  The ICIJ web page for the Paradise Papers, here.

A helpful ICIJ introductory video is here.

The Wikipedia page is here.

BBC has a good piece "Paradise Papers: Tax haven secrets of ultra-rich exposed," here.

Offshore activity of the type disclosed in the Paradise Papers is not necessarily illegal.

My guess is that somewhere somehow related to these disclosures will be whistleblower claims.  Readers of this blog already have been introduced to the U.S. tax whistleblower regime in § 7623(b) that can be quite lucrative for whistleblowers -- 15-30% of collected proceeds.

A sensitive issue for whistleblowers is whether, in blowing the whistle, they violate U.S. law or non-U.S. laws (such as bank secrecy laws, etc.).  A related issue for whistleblowers affiliated with professional firms (such as law firms and accounting firms) whether they violate professional standards.  In either event U.S. Government agencies receiving such disclosures will be very concerned that the agencies not be viewed as affirmative actors in the violation of non-U.S. laws or professional standards.  And, if the whistleblower is violating legal or ethical standards, the U.S. Government agencies may not act, unless there is some affirmative support (such as the attorney-client crime-fraud exception).  For example, if the whistleblower is a lawyer, the IRS will be keenly interested in whether the attorney-client privilege is implicated with respect to the information and documents disclosed and may not use the disclosed information until they are assured the there is no taint that would prevent the use.  Those of us who have worked through the traps and landmines in this area know that anticipating and addressing these concerns are key to successfully getting to the goal of a whistleblower award.

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