Financial secrecy and its discontents


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

We all have seen references to leaks of revealing facts, such as 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, 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? Are the rules too complicated for them to know what features should be considered warning signs/red flags and trigger additional scrutiny?
  • Which sorts of financial illegal activity are detected and deterred by the current regulatory regime and the financial institutions’ control of customers? For which illegal activities are the shortcomings the clearest?
  • 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?

Watch a video from the conference on Vimeo


Three speakers will address the mentioned challenges, while students and other participants will be invited to raise questions.

Mirella Elisa Grant- Group Executive Vice President Compliance at DNB. DNB is Norway's largest financial services group and one of the largest in the Nordic region in terms of market capitalization.

Sigrid Klæboe Jacobsen - Executive director and co-founder of Tax Justice Network – Norway. The organization plays an essential role in bringing tax justice to global attention by use of research and advocacy.

Guttorm Schjelderup is a Professor of Economics and Business Economics at NHH and Head of the Norwegian Center for Taxation (NoCeT).

Tina Søreide, Professor of law and economics at NHH, will moderate the event.

Purpose and practical information

This mini-conference is organized for students at NHH Norwegian School of Economics but it is open for anyone interested to attend.

The debate will address central themes in business and economics. Hidden information created by financial secrecy increases tax compliance costs, reduces the costs of criminal activities, fosters corruption, creates inequality, and affects politics, just to mention a few. In 2001 the Nobel prize in economics went to Spence, Akerlof and Stiglitz for research on how hidden information harmed markets and economic efficiency.

NHH addresses such challenges in many of its master courses because we want students to be part of the solution to serious challenges in society, and not a part of the problem.

For participation, please connect via the Zoom link above at around 14.00 on Wednesday 24 March. We will begin at 14.15 sharp.

Meeting ID: 642 9250 9113. Passcode: 148897