Rana Foroohar in Time:
It’s hard to know where to start in tallying up the explosive revelations in the Panama Papers, an analysis of leaked documents from global law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Yes, we’ve known for a while now that the shadow financial system was growing. But it’s another thing to take in 11.5 million documents showing the way in which Mossack Fonseca was working with big name financial groups like UBS, HSBC, Société Générale, and many others to help elites from the Communist Party leadership of China, to soccer star Lionel Messi, to global financiers hide cash in offshore havens around the world.
It’s just the tip of a much bigger iceberg. “The size of the leak is unprecedented, but the tricks Mossack Fonseca has allegedly used for its clients are neither new nor surprising. Anonymous shell companies and the failure of governments to require lawyers, corporate service companies, or banks to collect beneficial ownership information on clients leave the door wide open for dirty money to flow around the globe virtually unhindered,” says Heather Lowe, the Director of Government Affairs for Global Financial Integrity, a Washington DC-based consultancy.
To me, this is one of the key issues at work in the U.S. presidential election. Voters know at a gut level that our system of global capitalism is working mainly for the 1 %, not the 99 %. That’s a large part of why both Sanders and Trump have done well, because they tap into that truth, albeit in different ways. The Panama Papers illuminate a key aspect of why the system isn’t working–because globalization has allowed the capital and assets of the 1 % (be they individuals or corporations) to travel freely, while those of the 99 % cannot.