Across the world, there’s an ongoing reckoning with the Pandora Papers’ revelations about shadowy offshore accounts and the wealthy elites who hide their money in them. From corrupt oligarchs to politicians to celebrities, those named in the documents—the largest trove of leaked tax-haven files in history—now find themselves facing public outrage, or, in some cases, possible prosecution. Pop star Shakira and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair make appearances, while other names are less familiar—the kind of billionaires who are not especially interesting or glamorous but who are supremely well connected, like the childhood friend of Vladimir Putin linked to $2 billion in assets. Fourteen current or recent national leaders also appear in the papers. One of them, former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, might have lost his reelection bid in October because of reports that he’d purchased a $22 million chateau in France—complete with two swimming pools and a movie theater—through shell companies that hid his identity. Even royalty hasn’t been spared. The King of Jordan, already dealing with domestic turmoil, had his secret real-estate holdings abroad exposed.
The reaction in the United States, however, has been more muted. None of the most famous American billionaires—Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk, or Microsoft’s Bill Gates—were identified in the Pandora Papers. The most likely reason? As the Washington Post explained, “billionaires in the United States tend to pay such low tax rates that they have less incentive to seek offshore havens.” Indeed, one of the most depressing findings from the Pandora Papers is the extent to which the United States has itself become a sought-after “offshore” financial shelter for plutocrats. In recent decades, they’ve moved millions into trusts in states such as South Dakota, which the Guardian claims now “rivals Switzerland, Panama, the Cayman Islands, and other famous tax havens as a premier venue for the international rich seeking to protect their assets from local taxes or the authorities.”