Paradise Papers Show Illuminati Probably Exists
by Michael Jack O’Brien
There’s a common saying that goes something along the lines of the following: “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes”. Now, while the secret to immortality is a way off, it is no secret that among the ranks of the super wealthy elite, taxes are anything but a guarantee. In the second biggest data leak in history, second only to the Panama Papers leak of 2015, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has released over a terabyte of data, or over 13.4 million documents outlining the business dealings of offshore law firms, who, among other services, specialize in the multibillion dollar industry of tax-avoidance. The biggest of these companies, the Bermuda based law firm Appleby, has an extensive list of big name corporate clients including Uber, Apple, Nike, and Wells Fargo. Appleby provides many services: from drafting wills to establishing trusts. However, one of the most important services they provide is the establishment of shell companies (companies or corporations which serve as vehicles for financial transactions). It is important to realize that because the country of Bermuda is a tax-haven, meaning that it features minimal tax regulation or oversight, Appleby and its clients are capable of “sheltering” enormous amounts of revenue and profits from the prying eyes of tax agencies such as the IRS.
In addition to its sheer size, the Paradise Papers is astonishing for laying out the sheer scope of these operations, including its extensive list of clients. This includes multinational corporations like Nike and Apple, private estates including the estates of Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth, Madonna, Bono, and countless politicians and businessmen. As it stands, it doesn’t appear to matter who it is or what they do–if a client has money, these offshore firms are happy to offer their services (shocking, I know).
Some of the more insidious discoveries listed in the documents pertain to the inner cabinet of the Trump administration. While Trump claims to stand by an “America First” economic policy, the same cannot be said of his commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who, according to the leaked files, holds a sizable stake in the Navigator shipping company, owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law. This discovery is the latest in several findings that establish a clear link between Ross’s personal business dealings and Russian finance, which was scrutinized before Ross took office. Also named in The Paradise Papers is Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, who in a span of eight years was the president or vice president of twenty-two different Bermuda based entities; it is revealed that Cohn held these positions in service of Goldman Sachs, after which he stepped down from the positions to become the president of the multinational finance company. Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil is also named in the files.
Businessmen, politicians, celebrities and royalty, just who else was caught in this dragnet? The answer might not surprise you. Only a week after the release of the documents, it was revealed that over 104 American universities have been named in Appleby’s files. It is inferred that these universities have become big investors in the offshore investment industries, utilizing a variety of hedge funds and private equity firms to amass massive sums of money, paying little or no tax on their profits. According to the documents, four of ten universities with the largest endowments in America have been listed, including names such as Princeton, Columbia, Rutgers, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford. Some schools such as Northeastern University, Alabama, and Syracuse have used these offshore funds for secret investment into carbon-emitting industries; most notably, it was discovered that dozens of schools have contributed to a hedge fund managed by EnCap investments, a Texas based investment firm that prides itself on being the premier provider of capital for oil and gas companies. According to The Guardian, since 1988 EnCap has invested over $20bn into exploration for oil and natural gas in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana. These revelations came as a surprise for student environmental organizations such as DivestNU in Northeastern University, who for years had been fighting to persuade their university administration to reveal its investments into carbon emitting industries.
As of now, it is unclear how the students of these universities will react to these findings, or how said investments effect the students. As more and more universities are named in the documents, it could be predicted that calls for greater regulation of university endowment money will get louder. For reference, it is unknown as to whether Fordham University has been named in the documents. Only time will tell as more information is revealed to the public.