A Mail-In Tax Haven Protest

Last week, as Congress considered further deregulating Wall Street’s banking industry by repealing aspects of Dodd-Frank, a MassPIRG campaign was organizing activists to send thousands of postcards to a particular building on the Cayman Islands, the registered address of tax-dodging corporations like Bank of America.

“Ugland House is a modest five-story office building in the Cayman Islands, yet it is the registered address for 18,857 companies,” MassPIRG’s Legislative Director Dierdre Cummings tells the Advocate. “Bank of America, a company kept afloat by taxpayers during the financial meltdown, currently operates 311 subsidiaries in tax havens [like the Cayman Islands] and has stashed $17.2 billion offshore, on which it would owe $4.5 billion in taxes, according to the company’s most recent SEC filing.”

“A recent MASSPIRG report [see “Shelters and Taxes, Valley Advocate, 4/18/13] also found that offshore tax dodging costs Massachusetts $1.6 billion annually,” Cummings continues, “which would be enough to pay for 666 new commuter rail trains or double the entire operating budget of the MBTA.”

Last week, the House Financial Services Committee reviewed nine separate bills that Congress passed in 2010 to more effectively regulate derivative trading on Wall Street.

“A key effort in the Dodd-Frank financial reform act has been to bring transparency and reforms to the complex, shadowy market of derivatives,” reports the Washington Post. “Firms that are able to hide [trading] information from regulators by using complex derivatives are a big problem for ending Too Big To Fail.”

The chairman on the influential House Financial Services Committee is Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who took the seat this past January, just before he went on a ski vacation to Park City, Utah with “representatives of the banking industry,” according to ProPublica.

“The congressman’s political action committee held [a] fundraiser at the St. Regis Deer Valley, the “Ritz-Carlton of ski resorts” known for its “white-glove service” and for its restaurant by superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten,” ProPublica reports. “There’s no evidence the fundraiser broke any campaign finance rules. But a ski getaway with Hensarling, whose committee oversees both Wall Street and its regulators, is an invaluable opportunity for industry lobbyists.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hensarling’s JEF Fund accepted donations from Priceweaterhouse Coopers, MasterCard, Credit Suisse, Capital One, US Bank, and UBS around the time of the congressman’s Wall Street ski weekend.

Bank of America, apparently, was stuck on the Cayman Islands.

(Originally appeared in The Valley Advocate.)

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