Financial secrecy and its discontents

Background

In the last ten years a range of cases brought forward by investigative journalists have revealed how financial secrecy facilitates tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing.

We all remember cases like Panama papers, the Cum-Ex deals, and Paradise papers. Combine this with large corruption cases, like Lava Jato, the Odebrecht cases, the Rolls Royce case, and Unaoil case, and money laundering cases, like the ones involving Danske Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC and Swedbank, we get a grim picture of how easily tax evasion, bribery and fraud can be part of apparently legitimate business. Norway is not immune to the problems. In November 2019, for example, we learned about alleged corruption in Namibia involving an Icelandic company that made their transfers via DNB, the largest bank in Norway

Such cases give rise to a range of questions, especially in view of the stricter financial reporting requirements introduced after the 2008-10 financial crises, as well as the ones following the EU Money Laundering Directive. This directive requires banks in Europe to conduct due diligence of customers, monitor transactions, and report suspected activity to the police or financial oversight institutions.

  • Are the financial institutions capable of detecting criminal activity, as required by the regulations?

  • Given ever more sophisticated forms of crime, do they – as well as enforcement agencies - know what features should be considered warning signs/red flags and trigger additional scrutiny?

  • Could it be that some financial institutions are inclined to let suspicious transactions go through because of potential loss of profit if they report them? Or, could it be that the transactions they do report attract too little attention by oversight institutions, and thus, are allowed to continue?

Conference General Chair Professor Tina Søreide will be leading the debate to bring forward answers to such questions. We have invited Bradley C. Birkenfeld, the UBS banker who was the only whistleblower who had to go to prison for his involvement in tax evasion and later rewarded with a historic amount of USD 104 million due to his unprecedented information he provided to the IRS, SEC, DOJ and US Senate.

NHH students attending courses on corruption, taxation and business ethics will be leading the panel debate at the end of the conference. We aim to facilitate an outspoken debate with a competent audience to discuss this important topic.

Programme

12:30 - 12:35 Welcome Rector Øystein Thøgersen, NHH
12:35 - 12:40 Welcome Professor Tina Søreide, NHH
12:40 - 13:05

Bradley C. Birkenfeld

Lucifer’s Banker

13:05 - 13:10 Discussion 
13:10 - 13:30

Professor Nicholas Lord, University of Manchester

“Corporate Vehicles”, Global Financial Crimes and the Narratives of AML

13:30 - 13:35 Discussion 
13:35 - 13:50 Coffee Break 
13:50 - 14:10

Director of Group Compliance, Mirella Elisa Os Wassiluk, DnB

Why are banks' work against money laundering so important?

14:10 - 14:15 Discussion 
14:15 - 14:35

Senior Advisor Kari Heggstad, Development Division, The Norwegian Tax Administration 

Detecting hidden wealth

14:35 - 14:40 Discussion 
14:40 - 15:00

Professor Guttorm Schjelderup, NHH Norwegian School of Economics

Information Exchange, Tax Compliance and Tax Havens

15:00 - 15:05 Discussion 
15:05 - 15:20 Coffee Break 
15:20 - 15:50 Panel Dicussion
15:50 - 16:00 Closing Remarks

Conference committee

Professor, General Conference Chair Tina Søreide, NHH 

Event Manager Olga Pushkash, NHH 

Register in Eventbrite

Registration deadline: Friday 13 March