NHH Conference: Financial secrecy and its discontents

Date: 17 March 2020
Time: 12:30-17:00
Venue: Aud A, NHH, Helleveien 30, Bergen

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.

  • What allows the scandals to unfold? 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.

Other speakers include:

  • Professor of criminology Nicholas Lord (University of Manchester)
  • Professor of Law and expert on economic crime Jon Petter Rui (UiT The Arctic University of Norway)
  • Senior Advisor Kari Heggstad (The Norwegian Tax Authorities)
  • Professor of economics and expert on tax and public economics Guttorm Schjelderup (NHH Norwegian School of Economics).

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.

You can registrate and find more information here.