Tax-Evasion Bankers: The World’s Second-Oldest Profession

Tracing its roots to the great state of New Jersey!

You may be as surprised as we were to learn that a history of Switzerland and a history of tax evasion are not, in fact, the same thing. In one of history’s greatest and not-at-all-nefarious coincidences, the Swiss only got into the asset-shielding game shortly after Adolf Hitler got the top job in Germany. What is perhaps less surprising as we write the latest chapter in tax fraud’s proud history, and cross another name off the list of “good places to hide your money,” is that the Garden State is no stranger to those pages.

Back in the 1880s, at the prompting of prominent corporate lawyer James Dill, the state of New Jersey slackened its standards for corporate disclosures and regulation. Before long, giant trusts like the Standard Oil had relocated there, creating the potential for “transfer pricing,” in which subsidiaries sell goods to parent companies — a technique that can enable firms to minimize tax burdens across borders.

Panama Papers: A History of Tax Evasion from Ancient Rome to the French Revolution to 19th-Century New Jersey [WSJ]