In This Review

Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens
Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens
By Nicholas Shaxson
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 272 pp

This book is a vigorous and well-researched polemic against financial deregulation and the offshore tax havens around the world that have come into widespread use in recent decades. Shaxson, a British journalist, especially attacks the remnants of the British Empire -- Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, and the like -- and their supporters in the City of London and in the British political establishment, but their American fellow travelers also get a drubbing. He makes clear that “offshore” is a misnomer, since many ostensibly offshore practices have been adopted onshore in the United Kingdom and the United States. The U.S. state of Delaware and the British-controlled island of Jersey receive special scrutiny, and in the author’s view, the legislatures of small jurisdictions such as these are in effect for hire by major outside financial interests. Many of them enshrine client secrecy in law, which, not surprisingly, attracts wealthy people and companies (and criminal organizations) wanting to evade taxes and disagreeable regulations. Shaxson is not impressed with efforts during the past decade, seemingly led by the U.S. government, to make this global system more accessible to law enforcement agencies. Influential Americans, especially in finance, have too great a personal interest in preserving and even enlarging the gaping holes in the existing systems of taxation and regulation.