WASHINGTON - Former U.S. senator Carl Levin says public anger over the Panama Papers offers an opportunity to "make real progress" in ending financial abuses. The retired Democratic senator from Michigan says Washington should harness this anger and not let the scandal "go to waste."
For a decade, Levin pushed Washington to require collection of accurate information on the true owners of offshore shell companies and similar firms incorporated by foreigners in the United States.
As the Panama Papers show, in some cases these opaque shell companies may have been used to hide wealth from tax collectors, or evade financial sanctions.
In an opinion article Levin wrote for The Guardian newspaper, he calls on Washington to outlaw corporations with hidden owners. Levin says Britain and the European Union have begun moving in this direction, while, the United States "is far behind." Levin says "we require more information to get a library card than to form a U.S corporation."
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He says state governments that earn revenue from incorporating companies, including some with unsavory goals, should "wake up" to the damage they are doing and stop forming corporations with hidden owners.
Levin also urged tax authorities to do more with existing tax information exchange agreements, including one between the United States and Panama, to go after tax cheats and determine whether the law firm whose leaked documents prompted the scandal facilitated illegal conduct. He also urges authorities to "get tough" on lawyers promoting misconduct.