London Stock Exchange complicit in global tax secrecy
12 May 2016
This research, undertaken for Global Justice Now, is reported in the Guardian here.
New research shows that 389 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange are incorporated in tax havens controlled by the UK government. The largest number of companies – 129 – is incorporated in Guernsey, a British Crown Dependency. Yet the British Virgin Islands – a UK Overseas Territory that is at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal – is the choice of incorporation for 42 companies. The Cayman Islands accounts for 40 companies and Jersey 89 companies.
The 389 companies have a combined market capitalisation of £224.5 billion.
All seven UK territories rank highly on the Financial Secrecy Index produced annually by the Tax Justice Network. This ranks secrecy jurisdictions (or tax havens) by their level of banking and company secrecy.
Companies on the London Stock Exchange are often regarded as ‘British’. By listing in London, they enjoy the advantage of raising capital on international markets and enhancing their reputation. For example, LSE-listed financial services group Atlas Mara, which is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, says that it has raised $625 million on the Exchange.
Yet being incorporated in secrecy jurisdictions increases the risk that corporations may be avoiding tax payments. The London Stock Exchange is providing legitimacy to corporations which have chosen to domicile themselves in locations which are beyond proper international accountability. So far, the role of the Exchange has largely escaped critical attention in media coverage of the Panama Papers. It should surely not allow listing by companies registered in known secrecy jurisdictions.
|Place of registration||Status||Number of companies||Market capitalisation
|British Virgin Islands||UK Overseas Territory||42||6.97|
|Bermuda||UK Overseas Territory||34||58.9|
|Cayman Islands||UK Overseas Territory||40||5.1|
|Gibraltar||UK Overseas Territory||6||0.9|
|Isle of Man||Crown dependency||49||11.5|
Source: London Stock Exchange, http://www.londonstockexchange.com/statistics/companies-and-issuers/companies-and-issuers.htm
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