This 1st Week of October 2021 Thoughts.
Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders, and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts, and other assets for the past 25 years, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world. The report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries and is dubbed the ‘Pandora Papers’ because it sheds light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how offshore accounts shielded assets collectively worth trillions of dollars. The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The must be a wake-up call as global tax evasion fuels global inequality.
Oxfam International, a British consortium of charities, applauded the Pandora Papers for exposing brazen examples of greed that deprived countries of tax revenue that could finance programs for the greater good: “This is where our missing hospitals are and where the pay that should have gone to teachers and firefighters and public servants.
Whenever a politician or business leader claims there is ‘no money’ to pay for climate damage and innovation, for more and better jobs, for a fair post-COVID recovery, for more overseas aid, they know where to look. This bombshell had the equivalent of 750,000 photos on a smartphone.
Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which the Nobel Committee described as “a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia joins a long history that journalists to protect press freedoms and who have stood up for these ideals in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press faced increasingly adverse conditions. Ms. Ressa has worked to expose the abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in the Philippines and co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads up. Since 2012, Rappler has become one of the country’s most popular and influential media platforms, mixing reporting with calls for social activism. Today, the site attracts 40 million page views and 12 million visitors a month, and these figures double during the Philippines’ election season. Reporters for Rappler have exposed government corruption and the financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest of top political figures, and exposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial, violent antidrug campaign. Mr. Muratov has defended freedom of speech in Russia for decades, working under increasingly difficult conditions. He was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993 and he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief since 1995. 😲 Why does this matter to you? I can’t imagine what it would be like to put your life on the line to do your job! While I have put my job on the line several times for my principles, I was able to walk away and live another day. ESG is not just a feel-good way of investing: it is founded on this premise: that investment returns flow to strong, healthy, free democracies. I was so pleased to meet Perth Tolle, founder and manager of the Freedom and Liberty ETF and to divest from the emerging market stock funds who had stakes in these countries, as well as China.
Ireland has agreed to a global minimum tax plan that G7 and G20 nations hope will combat tax evasion and standardize rules when it gives up its treasured 12.5% corporate tax rate. Ireland, long been a tax avoidance center for corporate headquarters, will levy 15% on major multinationals. The new rate will affect 1,556 companies in Ireland including tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. We first heard this was a possibility last July after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen supported this to begin to tax corporations so they would pay their fair share. Over the past five years, hi-tech companies have accounted for the majority of Ireland's €5B-€7B / year in foreign direct investment. The last remaining holdout for the deal in the EU is Hungary. President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are also on board, though they face challenges of getting the agreement through Congress. The changes could require the Senate to alter existing tax treaties, which would take a two-thirds vote and at least some GOP support. Republicans have already expressed opposition to any rise in taxes, while some lawmakers have condemned the idea of getting in line with other global governments. 😲 Why does this matter to you? When I think how much we have lost in tax revenue and the damage to our country when jobs moved overseas for cheap labor it infuriates me. Excessive CEO pay meant that employees have not received health care or pay increases: the cost savings only benefited the top. Sustainable / Impact Investing moves from short-term thinking to long term profitability. Had our manufacturing facilities kept operating here, many of the supply chain shortages would not be hampering our economic well-being today.
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