Money Laundering and Your Bank Accounts – Part VII – Unusual Activities

Banks Solve the Money Laundering Puzzle.
This is the seventh part in our series that reveals exactly what banks are looking for when they are combatting money laundering.

Bank-to-Bank Transactions

The size and frequency of currency deposits increases rapidly with no corresponding increase in noncurrency deposits.

You know if you expect to see an uptick in your currency deposits. If you do, pay a visit to your banker and explain to her what is happening. That will forestall any unnecessary problems.

A bank is unable to track the true account holder of correspondent or concentration account transactions.

You may have an account that receives deposits from several other banks. For example, for sales made in multiple countries plus deposits from a credit card bank. If the bank thinks you aren’t the actual account owner, then they are obligated to take action. They will report it to the appropriate authorities.

The turnover in large-denomination bills is significant and appears uncharacteristic, given the bank’s location.

There is a global effort to reduce the number of large currency bills in circulation because of their anonymity. Your account will be flagged if you process many of these through your account where this is unusual.

Changes in currency-shipment patterns between correspondent banks are significant.

Transactions between correspondent banks are tracked so that if an employee manages to bypass internal controls, she will be caught. There are several triggers to be aware of:

  1. Large volumes of small denomination bills are sold to U.S. banks. (This is a trigger in the EuroZone as well. In that case, triggering currencies are USD, GBP and EUR.)
  2. Multiple wire transfer instructions from foreign nonbank institutions requiring the bank to transfer funds to entities for which there seems to be no reasonable business purpose.
  3. Customers exchange large volumes of USD or Euros for larger denominations. This facilitates physical cross-border shipment of currency.
  4. Deposits of Euros or US Dollars by a foreign non-bank entity that subsequently transfers the funds via wire to foreign non-bank entities.

Even legitimate businesses risk losing access to their funds temporarily or permanently as well as prompting an investigation of the principals if they engage in any of these activities.

Protecting Your Information While Travelling.

Protecting Information
image by stevepb
We are interrupting our information series on the impact of money laundering controls on legitimate businesses to deal with a subject that has become increasingly urgent to many of our customers, and that is protecting their private information when traveling. We shall complete the money laundering series shortly.

Protecting Your Private Information During International Travel

Many businessmen have become worried about the increasingly intrusive nature of border inspections. Border security agents are beginning to treat information with the same level of concern as they do physical weapons. That concern is understandable but too often it leads to invasions of privacy that are not warranted. Furthermore, they can easily lead to the leakage or loss of critical commercial information or reveal embarrassing private facts. Governments should not act in these domains, but we’ve made it easy for them. So they do it.

Border Interrogation

When you cross into a country, there is no limit to the amount of information border control agents may demand. Your very first line of protection is to be normal in every possible way. Act as a businessman, a tourist or a relative. Don’t draw attention. Don’t project an aura of being special.

Answer questions matter-of-factly. Tell the truth. Don’t joke.

If they select you for further questioning, you’ll go to a separate interrogation room. They are being paid for the time they are there. Meanwhile, the loss of time is costing you money. You want to leave quickly. They want overtime pay. They will use your impatience against you.

When they finish asking you questions or perhaps before, they will ask to look into your laptop and phone. Of course, they will tell you to provide the passwords. Now the trouble starts. As an international traveler entering a country, you have no rights. You are at the mercy of the inspector in front of you. You have two rational choices and one irrational:

  1. Give up your passwords and give them the keys to your life.
  2. Give up your passwords and let them find nothing useful.
  3. Try to fight them.

We encourage option two. Give them the passwords to unlock your devices and any applications on them. Just ensure there’s nothing important for them to see.

Fingerprints, Pattern Tracing and Iris Scans

None of these are as effective as the old-fashioned password for protection – if you create a good password and change it from time to time.
As a matter, of course, you should have your devices set for complete encryption of all the data on them whether you are at home or on the road. Then, if you have any concern at all that your device may be lost, stolen or compromised, you should be certain to use a well-formed password to protect it.

Invisible Information is the Best Defense

When you cross a border, take the minimum necessary information with you. Fortunately, in the twenty-first century, you can transport minimal data easily. On the other hand, ferreting out your secrets is easier than ever, too. Especially if you aren’t careful. There are several data storage areas you need to be aware of; border agents certainly are.

  1. Your digital devices
  2. The cloud
  3. Social media

Let’s cover these in a bit of detail:

Digital Devices 1

There is virtually no possibility that you know what data can be found stored on you digital devices. Poor programming practices and lazy habits ensure that practically everyone has far more information on their devices than they can imagine. Every time we upgrade devices, we get more memory and transfer more history from our old devices to our new ones. Oftentimes it is buried so far that we don’t even know it is there. And if we don’t know it is there, we certainly can’t remove it. Some of it may be embarrassing. Some of it may be incriminating.

On top of that, as almost anyone with even a slight bit of computer literacy can tell you, erasing things doesn’t actually erase them. Generally, erasing just changes the first character to let the system know that space is available, but all the rest of the information is still there if it hasn’t been overwritten. Destructive erasure is possible with modern operating systems but it is slow and not one hundred percent certain.
Your best option is  to leave your daily-use digital devices at home.

Digital Devices 2

From now on, carry only the bare-bones hardware that you need. For example, an iPad and a Samsung phone. For communications, set up your iPad to connect to a straw iCloud account that is bare-bones and is not your regular one. On your Huawei, keep only the phone numbers of your office, home and a couple of restaurants where you have business lunches.
Pay for the equipment and cloud accounts in cash or through your company account. Do not use your credit cards.  Purchase the SIM for the phone using  cash and without identification or, at worst, use your company account; your concern isn’t anonymity, it is their collection of your personal information.

Memorize your cloud account information. Do not write it down. You will use that information later to download everything that you need.

Once  in your hotel room, you can connect your iPad to your main Cloud account and then download the business information and any apps (e.g. WhatsApp and Skype) that you need. You can then proceed about your business as normal.

Before departing the country, you will upload all of the new data to the cloud and then reset your iPad to factory specs and erase everything. Then you will connect the iPad to your innocuous straw iCloud account.

Handle your Samsung or other phone similarly. Each manufacturer handles data erasure differently. The iPhone is probably the most convenient and secure – you simply go to General->reset->Erase all settings and content, tap on that and you are done.  Rather than erasing the data, the iPhone erases the codes that are used to encrypt every bit of data on the phone. So, although the data is there, no one is going to read it.

The Cloud

Digital devices love the cloud. You probably have at least ten cloud accounts of one sort or another without realizing it, and some of us have acquired hundreds. There are a variety of ways to track the passwords for them including through special password apps, through your digital device operating system or some manual system of your own.  Once your iPad and phone are set for travel, you will connect your iPad only to your straw account. Your straw account will contain real information but not information that you wish the border agents not to see.

Social Media

This may be your biggest problem if you have been putting information on your social media that you would prefer that the border security agents not know about. They will check the most popular social media sites. Using your name and variants of it. They may also do a search of the Internet using your photo and Google’s image search function. If you don’t want everyone in the world to know something about you, don’t put it on the Internet.

If you are able, you can try to clean up your social accounts, but generally, there’s not much you can do. What’s done is done. You can start flooding your accounts with entries every day so that the investigator gives up searching before getting to what you want to conceal or can’t distinguish the wheat from the chaff, but, in general, if you’ve put it on line, if they are sufficiently interested in you, they will find what you are trying to hide if you maintain your account.

It is possible to request Facebook to completely delete your account.  Once that is done, you’ll never be able to access it again. You can find information on how to delete it here. If you still want a Facebook account, you can then create another account under a different name.

These steps are designed to protect you as you pass through borders, but you may find them useful for day-to-day work in some police states. Depending on the country you will be entering, you may find that you need to augment these steps, but they form a solid basis for travel throughout most, if not all, the world.


Money Laundering and Your Bank Accounts – Part VI – Loans

photo by Drew Hays,
This is the sixth part in our series revealing exactly what banks are looking for when they are combatting money laundering.

Laundering Money Through Lending Activity

Money launderers course massive sums through loans and investments. Bank authorities must perform significant due diligence to detect money laundering in these cases. To top that off, some governments try to discourage detection of such money laundering activities through legislation and regulation.

A borrower secures loans using pledged assets held by third parties unrelated to the borrower.

Launderers clean dirty money by pledging an asset purchased with dirty money to secure a clean loan. Sometimes, they course the funds through several banks, several shell companies, and one or two straw men. The bank may ask many questions to prevent any money laundering. The borrower must answer those questions convincingly.

A borrower secures a loan by using readily marketable assets, such as securities. If a third party owns the assets then the transaction is especially suspicious.

Borrowers don’t usually pledge easily marketable assets to get cash. The borrower can sell such assets with less difficulty than taking out a loan. If a borrower does not, he needs to be able to explain why. He will need to provide a convincing reason.

A borrower defaults on a loan that is secured by easily marketable assets.

The borrower probably took out the loan in order to default on it. Launderers create these schemes as a way to convert somewhat clean assets and create clean money.

Loans are made for or are paid on behalf of, a third party with no reasonable explanation.

“Reasonable explanation” generally requires significant documentary support. Absent that support, someone is going to be sitting in front of an investigator trying to answer questions.

The borrower purchases a certificate of deposit using an unknown source of funds in order to secure a loan.

When funds are provided via currency or multiple monetary instruments the source of the security is even more suspicious.
Banks may permit the borrower to partially or fully secure a loan by purchasing a CD issued by the bank. However, banks that do so must thoroughly vet the source of the funds. If they don’t, regulators will suspect them of colluding in money laundering.

Banks make loans that lack a legitimate business purpose

Or they may provide the bank with significant fees for assuming little or no risk, or tend to obscure the movement of funds (e.g., loans made to a borrower and immediately sold to an entity related to the borrower) will be suspected of colluding to launder money.
In other words, they are loans that don’t make sense from both the borrower’s and lender’s point of view unless criminal activity is involved.

AEOI Forcing Moves from Offshore to Midshore

AEOI drives Putin offshore
AEOI and FATCA make it more and more difficult to shield one’s income in offshore havens. Today, many people are finding that the risks and inconvenience of banking offshore merely to save on taxes no longer make sense. For that reason, more and more individuals and companies are moving to midshore locations. Locations that have strong banks and banking sectors and favorable tax systems are termed “midshore’.

Midshore Locations

Midshore locations are relatively few. The best are Singapore, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Ireland and Delaware. If you know how to take advantage of their tax systems, then your real taxes can be quite reasonable. In addition, business that move to a mid-shore jurisdiction start being taken seriously. The reality isk that no one trusts businesses from offshore jurisdictions; their purpose is known by everyone. But a business in a midshore location can have low taxes but enjoy the benefits of the reputation of the jurisdiction.

Everything Leads to Trump

Much of the world knows about the Christopher Steele dossier about the Russian Government’s kompromat bribes and promised bribes to Donald Trump and his rather motley crew. The dossier claims that Vladimir Putin promised to give Trump a 19% share in Rosneft when he kills the sanctions on Russia. Now, you may choose not to believe the dossier, and that’s understandable. However, it is indisputable that the deal was funded by only 300 million euros. And 19.5% of Rosneft is worth at least 10.2 billion euros.

When the new owners of the transaction are traced, it turns out to be a Cayman Islands company. To top that off, of the three owners of the Cayman Islands company, no one knows who the third party is. But the other owners are a Cayman Island company owned by a Cayman Island company.  When it came time to regularise the deal and present a respectable face to the world, they chose to form a Singapore company, QHG Shares Pte. Ltd. Clearly midshore companies make sense, even when buying a President.

Rosneft boss, Oligarch, former Putin aide and Tillerson friend, Igor Sechin revealed the deal on December 7, 2016, exactly one month after Donald Trump was elected. In the process, Putin pounded another nail in the coffin of the Cayman Island’s reputation. He gloated that the deal was a sign of international faith in Russia in spite of the sanctions.

He could have boasted that it was a cheap price to pay to buy the President of the United States. Dirty dealings. And that’s why no one respects offshore companies. And shady types love them.

AEOI Says Now’s the Time

AEOI kicks the comfortable in the rear and says “Wake up!” It’s time to get moving and stay ahead of malevolent bureaucrats who would do you harm. Contact us to get started on regularising your operations. We have a number of competitive, high-reputation midshore locations to choose from.

Wealth, Capitalism & Survival in a Hyper-critical World

Mob attacks plutocrat’s house
Former McKinsey Senior Partner Eric Beinhocker and multi-billionaire Nick Hanauer appeared at the Aspen Institute to participate in a discussion of redefining capitalism. The definition of wealth is fundamental to their system. It is apt that two folks with their particular sets of credentials be the public face for this relatively new approach. Certainly, neither can be accused of being big-government socialists. And they are wealthy enough that they don’t have to be envious of anyone.

Automatic “Wealth” Generation

As Hanauer notes, he’s reasonably bright and works reasonably hard. He’s probably no brighter or harder working than you are, but he’s a billionaire and you aren’t. Why? Automatic, self-reinforcing feedback loops. Without them, Hanauer would have been a moderately successful heir and entrepreneur. But selecting the right parents and the right genes put him in the spot to be the first non-family investor in Amazon.

Hanauer didn’t do nothing, he made some astute decisions and worked reasonably hard, but he didn’t make decisions or do work that would be worth billions in a rational world.
You see, once the money was in Amazon, for the investors, it was just a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Each time you did nothing but let the money ride, it grew. And grew. And grew. The same for two of his other investments. Each was, for him, a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Wealth is Accumulated Solutions

Wealth/Prosperity, Hanauer & Beinhocker say, is the accumulation of solutions for human problems. Whatever form of stuff you choose, none of it is wealth unless it solves your problems.
If you are in the middle of a desert with no water and a kilo of gold, gold won’t quench your thirst. Someone may show up with a canteen of water and be quite unwilling to part with it. Water will quench your thirst, but your gold won’t. Solutions are wealth, not stuff. Stuff can be a means for accumulating wealth, but it is not wealth.

Capitalism is Failing

Capitalism is the greatest tool for accumulating wealth that man has developed. However, it no longer works. Near-stagnant GDPs in advanced economies all over the world attest to that fact. Obviously, something is awry. Wealth is concentrating at the top. Productivity rewards go to the wealthy. Middle class real wages decline or remain stagnant. Much of the reason for that lies in the failure to understand why Capitalism is better than every other economic system we have tried.

Capitalism is an evolutionary, solution-finding system. The more we remove it from being an evolutionary, solution-finding system, the more poorly it will function. An ethos has developed over the years, that explicitly tries to quench its essential trait. Capitalism, we are told, is a system for generating stuff; the more, the better. As we all know, GDP measures the creation of stuff, not the accumulation of solutions. But measuring GDP leads to perverse outcomes.

Short Termism

By the 1980’s the static economic models used for theoretical illustrations had become cant and affected both government regulation and corporate thinking. Prior to that time the goal of the CEO was a satisfied customer and a satisfied shareholder was a hoped-for byproduct. Starting in the 1980’s the phrase “shareholder value” became inescapable. By 1987 when T. Boone Pickens wrote his Eponymous Memoir, “Boone”, shareholder value, was the siren call for corporate raiders.

Regulations were written the ensured executive compensation would be calculated on share prices, not profits or sales. Accordingly, average CEO compensation rose from 30 times that of the average employee to 500 times…. a relative growth of over 1,500 percent. Executive wages became a large piece of the concentrated “wealth”. This over-concentration of pseudo-wealth has pushed the world into a hyper-critical state. It is the nature of hyper-critical states that very small events can cause a dramatic change in state. The pitchforks and torches may be outside your door tonight.

Growing Real Wealth

If you accept that real wealth is solutions to problems, then you see the world as a very different place:

  • Economic growth is the rate at which problems are solved/
  • Maximising the number of people solving problems will maximise growth and wealth.
  • Therefore, maximising the opportunities to be a problem solver will maximise wealth.

The reader might comment “Governments just get in the way.” But that would be wrong. Although Democratic Capitalism is the greatest tool we’ve ever developed for wealth generation, it has a number of problems:

  • It doesn’t define long-term problems well.
  • Capitalism is biased toward the first, not the optimal solution.
  • It may hamper or destroy good solutions while in the process of providing a bad solution.

The Role of Government

These failures are best resolved by a democratic government that provides the necessary regulation to correct each of these problems. It should not, however abet rent-seeking through predatory licensing (e.g. licensing of hairdressers, cabinetmakers, etc.). Neither should it use any other of the many tools that government has at its disposal to put its thumb on the scale. Regulations are not intrinsically bad or good; their manner of application and results are determinative. Their goal is to help people solve more problems than they create.

The second major role of government is to maximise the number of problem solvers in society. Among other things, this means ensuring that everyone starts their economic life with the best possible equipment to solve problems. Genetics and luck will always determine that outcomes will be different, but in a well functioning society, we can expect wealth distribution to fall on a normal curve.

The very best way you can protect your assets is to live and work in a society that practices this sort of capitalism. As a matter of self-protection and self-satisfaction, you should encourage your government to organise itself to maximise the number of people solving problems.

In the short term, you may want to seriously consider diversifying where you keep your assets. We can help you do that. Contact us now.

AEOI, FATCA and the Death of Offshore Island Tax Havens

Singapore beats tax havens
Three of the world’s strongest banks.
If you don’t care about access to your money then this essay is not for you. If you don’t mind if businesses look askance at your BVI or Seychelles tax haven company or account, this essay isn’t for you.

Tax Havens are Offshore Zombies

Face reality. The OECD giants are awake and are not going back to sleep. There’s no getting around it, you can be sure that they will recover “their” money stashed in island tax havens. The world changes and you need to change with it. Sure, island tax havens are still in business, but no matter how much they resist, their days are numbered. Even moreso, if you have a company or bank account there, you can find your life change without warning. Clearly, zombie hunters are after the island tax havens.

All is Not Lost

Thank goodness, you can still achieve most of what you want and open new options for yourself. Open your mind. Expand your vision. The press is well behind the curve on this. You can be sure that they do not write stories that convey today’s reality. There is no getting around it, onshore and midshore should be your bywords now. If you go where taxes are few and low and structure your business to take advantage of the rules, you’ll be better off than you are today.

Dangerous Banking in Tax Havens

When is the last time you thoroughly checked out your bank in terms of liquidity, solvency and sovereign risk? Odds are, if you are banking in an island tax haven, you haven’t thought about it much or at all. If others bank there, it must be okay, right? Unfortunately for you, that is now an ancient truth that is no longer viable. Most banks in island tax havens have no oversight worth the name. Furthermore, if they publish their financials, they aren’t worth the paper they are written on. If you have an account there, when things get rough you may be the last person who hasn’t moved his funds to another country. Think about that.

Safe Banking

The thing about sovereign risk is that countries seem safe until suddenly they aren’t. Change, when it comes, is often alarmingly fast and confusing. Russia now threatens the Baltic countries, Ukraine and Georgia. In fact, as I write this, Russian soldiers are posting selfies from inside Ukraine. Russia is waging a cyber war on the Baltic countries. And to cap it off, Georgia is still reeling from its dismemberment by Russia. Visit four of the five countries and things seem just fine. But if you bank or live there you could lose everything overnight.

If you don’t look at their books, the same is true of banks. When times are good, all banks seem equal. Collapse the economy and everything is revealed. If you put your money in an unsound bank, you are going to look pretty silly when your bank goes under.

Practice safe banking:

  • Eliminate all politically risky jurisdictions.
  • Eliminate the jurisdictions with high real tax rates.
  • Find the most liquid and solvent banks in several of the remaining jurisdictions.
  • Test them to see which are friendly to you and your money.
  • Test them to see how quickly you can move your money out of the country.
  • Choose two or three banks from the resulting shortlist and analyse more closely.
  • Finally, open an account with the one that makes you most comfortable.

The Great Equalizers

AEOI and FATCA have essentially flattened the playing field for banks. Jurisdictions that once thrived because of their lax laws and supervision now report their depositor’s information just like everyone else. Take the anonymity away and compare the sovereign and bank risk with the modest tax savings you may or may not get. It is clear, onshore banking is preferable.

If you need to rethink your banking arrangements, contact us

Polish Banks Hacked Via their Financial Supervision Authority

PKO Bank Polski Regionalne Centrum by Henryk Borawski
If you can’t trust the police, who can you trust? Some country set its sights on Polish banks using their top regulator to compromise their systems. Given Russia’s interest in destabilising Eastern Europe, we’re betting it is the hacker. Russian hackers will target banks full-time after the European election season is over. Why do they hack banks? They hack for money, of course, but they hack for patriotic reasons, too.

Battlefield Preparation

NATO worries Russia and Russia wants to fight back. Their military can’t match NATO but Russia’s brainpower is formidable. They are preparing for battle all around the world.

The battlefield is cyberspace and the soldiers are hackers. Every country worth the name is busily breaking into critical systems of likely opponents and are planting cyber IEDs (cIED) to be exploded when the time is right. Sometimes they explode them to to test the effects and sometimes, rarely, they are detected.

KNF, the financial authority became the unwitting vector for a cIED when someone loaded an encrypted javascript virus onto a KNF server that was then unknowingly downloaded by Polish banks accessing the server. The viruses then went to work pumping information out to the hackers that created it.

At least twenty banks in Poland were infected with this virus. It is likely that far more were because up until recently it was undetectable. If it is in Poland, we have to wonder about Latvia, which seems like such a tempting morale for the Russian bear.

Who Better Than the Financial Supervisor

The banking system is very careful. Banks develop systems and test, test, test them to guarantee that hackers can’t get in. It generally takes a security breach to get a hacker in.

However, supervisory agencies tend to be less careful. They have important data, but they don’t handle money, so they are often less careful than they should be. That makes them a perfect vector for attacking the system.

It’s a Hacked World

We regard as laughable the idea that privacy exists today in anywhere but the most backward places. As they say, there are two kinds of businesses today: those that have been hacked and those that don’t know they’ve been hacked.

Take basic security precautions.  You must still make your passwords long and unlikely, but the biggest dangers to your data lie elsewhere. Just living in todays world means your privacy is compromised. Your challenge is to minimise the consequences.

Banking Privacy is Dead in Much of the World

For decades those who wanted financial privacy chose offshore tax havens or East European countries to form companies and open bank accounts. And for decades that made good sense. But two unstoppable forces have put paid to this idea.

First it was the rise of the hackers. Countries in the middle of cyberwar like the Eastern European ones are directly in the bullseye for Russian hackers. On the other hand, island tax haven banks simply don’t have the technical skills needed to deal with todays hackers.

The second was the desperation of countries to maximise their tax revenue. That has led to the coercion of economically weak countries to fork over formerly confidential tax data to just about any big country that asks for it.

Smart Banking

Fortunately, all is not lost. Relative security and relative privacy are still available in the financial world, but you aren’t going to find it in exotic locations. It is time to start looking at countries that are sound. The downside of this is that you’ll have fewer illusions and you’ll probably have to meet your banker face-to-face. If you are running guns or dope, you are still short of options. In fact, you can almost be certain that the only reason you are still in business is because MI6, CIA and FSB want you to be in business.

Singapore is one of the safest places in the world in which to bank. And it is one of the world’s lowest tax jurisdictions. To top that off, several of its banks are among the world’s strongest and their information technology protections among the world’s most sophisticated. Contact us to learn how we can greatly improve your chances of opening an account in Singapore.

FATCA, AEOI and Economic Reformation

Economic reformation to retreat from planetary boundaries
Bumping Against Planetary Boundaries. Derived from globe.svg by Ninjatacoshell

AEOI and FATCA are symptoms of the failed version of capitalism that underlies global political turmoil and the crisis stage our planetary home has already met. Politicians worldwide are desperate to provide enough for their voters to keep themselves in office, but they are failing. Their failure causes disappointment, anger, war, devastation and flight. Populists with worse ideas are attempting to cash in on the chaos. They will be even less successful.

The Failure of Conventional Capitalism

We think we know that capitalism is all about growth. If we could make enough stuff, everyone would be better off. Shallow thinking. Although we all know that the Earth is finite and that we’re not leaving, we act as though Earth’s resources are infinite. The capitalism that we embrace as our secular religion takes that as a given. But the collapse of Venezuela, Somalia, Syria, Western Sahara, the encroaching of sands onto Chinese agricultural lands and the disappearing summer sea ice of the Arctic tell another story.

AEOI and FATCA Measure Desperation

If things were proceeding normally, the OECD governments would not be desperate for revenue. After all, they suck in monumental amounts of revenue every year, that should be enough. Sad to say they then disgorge it wastefully. To top that off, they pilfer it from the pockets of those who need it most and pass it to those who need it least. So they get remarkably little bang for the buck and so do we. This topsy-turvy allocation may align with a fairy-tale version of capitalism but it dispenses with capitalism’s promise.

That’s not news to you, I’m sure. If governments spend revenue unwisely, their first response is to seek more revenue, not to spend wisely. Having emptied the pocketbooks of 95% of their citizens and not wanting to bother the rest, they look farther afield. AEOI and FATCA are the tools they use to suss out additional revenue sources. You look like a likely candidate.

Unforced Change Not in the Cards

Liberals, Socialists, Conservatives and NeoLiberals all suffer from the same illusion that the problem of current debt is solved through future growth. They have to believe it. If they don’t, their whole system collapses. The trouble is that even children can now see that the emperor has no clothes. Politicians cannot see the fallacy because they must not see the it. If they do, they will have no choice but to do what’s necessary to make things better. What could be more unwise than that?

Wealth Concentrates as the World Deteriorates

The structure of today’s capitalism all but guarantees that not only rent-seeking (seeking unearned income) is rife but also ensures through self-reinforcing rental mechanisms greater and greater wealth will accumulate faster and faster. It is accumulating so fast now that this may be the year that one person owns as much wealth as 99% of humanity. At the same time, human population continues to climb and global warming continues to increase with no halt in sight.

Unstopped, global warming will kill us all. Unstopped, population growth will kill us all. And unstopped, wealth concentration will kill us all.
One thing we know with absolute certainty, in a finite system, exponential growth will not continue indefinitely. That’s where we are today. Believe what you want, reality doesn’t care.

Measuring Inequality

I need to make a slight aside here so that you can understand where you are in the grand scale of things. If you have more than US$10,000 in wealth then you have more than 71% of the people on Earth. If you have US$100,000, you have more than 92% of the people on Earth and if you have US$1,000,000 you have more than 99.4% of the people on Earth. And if you are the richest person, you have as much as everyone else put together. Ahhhh the schadenfreude and envy that you must feeling and feeling guilty about, right now, for you are so far above the bottom but the top is out of reach.

There is no way to graph your wealth in relationship to Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. If you have only a few million in wealth, your dot on the computer screen will vanish into nothingness. You’ll cease to exist. Every time he swings his golf club a multi-billionaire accumulates more wealth by the mere fact of his existence than you will in a lifetime of work. Perhaps you think that’s okay. I don’t.

Traditional Capitalism Encourages Shoddyness

Somewhere along the way progressing out of my lower middle-class life I learned that a little extra money spent on clothing bought clothing that was an order of magnitude better in terms of durability and wearability. One could easily spend twice as much on a piece of clothing and get ten times the wear out of it. As it turned out that was true of many things. (Not cars, unfortunately. or smartphones.) Those who patronise Walmart ensure that they’ll need to keep patronising Walmart because the quality is so poor that they have to keep shopping there for replacements. Savings in the world of shoddy are hard to come by.  A few more dollars spent at Land’s End, Duluth or L.L. Bean can mean a decade’s difference in the life of a skirt or shirt. Longer-lived clothes are one more way to add to your bank account.

This isn’t meant as an anti-Walmart tirade, it is to point out that mere numbers do not tell the story of economic progress. Take Las Vegas as an example.

Las Vegas – Home of the Ephemeral

Las Vegas Boulevard is a strip of disposable multi-billion dollar dream castles and fantasies.  The Neon Museum in Las Vegas is the final resting place for the signs of once world-famous casinos that are no more. It houses the last echo of casinos that were wondrous, shoddy creations in their day; creations that deteriorated and outlived their use-by dates and were imploded to make way for equally shoddy successors.

How much more money would have had to have been built into the design and construction of each of these buildings to extend their lives for one or two hundred years?  Ten to fifteen percent. That’s all. But of course the pay back would have started a little later and taken a little longer, and that was all that mattered. It should be obvious that this sort of thinking is a direct contradiction to universal principles and patterns of systemic health and development.

What Can be Done

Regenerative Capitalism offers a way out. But it calls for a radical shift in perspective. Growth is out. Improvement is in.

Here I adapt page 8 and 9 of Regenerative Capitalism

These are the eight characteristics of a healthy human system:

  1. A Healthy System is Innovative, Adaptive, Responsive.  The most innovative, adaptive and responsive systems are the ones most likely to prosper in a world of change.  In Darwinian terms, they are the most “fit”.
  2. It Empowers Participation.  In an interdependent system, fitness comes all parts contributing and taking from the system so that the whole benefits as well as the parts.
  3. A Healthy Human System Honors Community and Place.  Each human occupies a unique place in the system and came to that place through a unique history. A healthy system will honour each person’s place and history.
  4. It Fosters Edge Effect Abundance.  We are a collection of small systems and maximum creativity occurs where different systems touch, not at the center where things are uniform. Working collaboratively across the edges enhances each system.
  5. It has Robust Circulatory Flow.  Economic health is dependent on the robust circulation of money, information and resources.  Sequestering these in the hands of a few leads to economic death.
  6. A Healthy System Seeks Balance.  The Regenerative Economy seeks to balance efficiency and resilience; collaboration and competition; diversity and coherence; and small, medium, and large organizations and needs.
  7. It is In a Proper Relationship.  Humanity is an integral part of an interconnected web of life in which there is no real separation between “us” and “it.” The scale of the human economy matters in relation to the biosphere in which it is embedded.
  8. It Views Wealth Holistically.  True wealth is not merely money in the bank. It must be defined and managed in terms of the well-being of the whole, achieved through the harmonization of multiple kinds of wealth or capital. These  include social, cultural, living, and experiential capital. The human system must also be defined by a broadly shared prosperity across all of these varied forms of capital.

Where to Start?

AEOI and FATCA are, as I mentioned, tools that demonstrate the desperation of governments to increase their revenue streams. Resistance is futile. They will have their way sooner or later and you must become comfortable with that fact. There are two things you can do, and both are important:
First, you can avail of legal options that will reduce or eliminate the taxes that you now pay through careful tax planning. I personally detest the idea that we have a system that enables this form of legal cheating, but that’s the system we live in.Contact us for some ideas.
Second, Read Regenerative Capitalism.
Third, Get locally involved, no matter where you are. If you are reading this, you are the kind of person that can make things happen in your community or communities adhering to the principles above. Do it.