On Saturday, The New York Times published a fascinating look at the nationwide problems created by the tiny corporate kingdom that is Delaware.
Buried in the piece is a passing mention that Oregon shares many of the factors that make Delaware so attractive to tax avoiders, evaders and all manner of fraudsters.
The state [of Delaware] is seen as an onshore alternative with regulations more lax than such well-known offshore tax havens as the Isle of Man, Jersey and the Caymans, which require greater disclosure. Even more, a Delaware registration allows a business, legitimate or not, to open a bank account anywhere in the world with the patina of an American address.
“You can have companies in Delaware that have no U.S. bank accounts, no requirements for documentation and no one knows who owns them,” says Anthony B. Travers, chairman of the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange and former chairman of that country’s Financial Services Association. “There should be a level playing field and Delaware should have to comply with the same standards as the Caymans.”
Delaware isn’t the only state that has gone this route. Three others — Nevada, Wyoming and Oregon — have also been cited by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a division of the United States Treasury Department, as “particularly appealing” for the formation of shell companies.
A quick glance at the FECN's summary reports show that Oregon does seem to punch above its weight when it comes to certain kinds of financial crime. In the last quarter of 2011, Oregon, the 27th most populous state, ranked 22nd in suspected incidents of mortgage loan fraud. Per capita, Oregon ranked 14th.
And in March of last year, FECN announced a $25,000 civil penalty against a Tigard man, Victor Kaganov, for running an unregistered money transfer business out of his home (pdf).