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From Where I'm Sitting – Notes From the Desk of a SaaS CMO

Re: The Pandora Papers – Part 1

The ICIJ should actually sit down and stop with the over the top, "stop the presses" editorials on the rich and famous. It's embarrassing and frankly, conduct unbecoming an organization that is supposed to pride itself on balanced, informed journalism.

The latest in an on-going saga of "the rich are bad and we've unmasked their skull duggery for the poor unwashed peasants" The Pandora Papers is the third in a series of "P" titled articles.

The first two being The Panama Papers and The Paradise Papers.

Has anyone else noticed their penchant for P names — these guys are like obsessed, millennial parents bent on naming their litany of children all in the same family of precious letters. Madison, Malachi and Mustard Seed or Kaylee, Kristy and Krishna...

But back to the nugget here.

Blockchain nodes visualized on a colourful computer screen with software code

The Pandora Papers

The backstory for The Pandora Papers is pretty basic.

14 million files were stolen by hackers from about 15 law firms mostly in Latin America and sent to the ICIJ.

That's the basis for the latest effort from this global band of merry journo's in a desperate bid for eyeballs and clicks and relevance. They once again decided to create a whole, hand wringing mess of a series of articles that detailed the misadventures of the rich and famous and their on-going efforts at wealth structuring and wealth preservation.

"14 million files were stolen by hackers from about 15 law firms mostly in Latin America and sent to the ICIJ."

Juicy stuff non?

Well, not so much – and the series died on the vine for what I believe to be a couple of reasons.

Here's my two cents:

  1. There has been no follow-up actions by authorities after the first two series besides a few charges laid for blatant, "seriously, they did that" crimes

  2. High tax jurisdictions have not, nor do they have any intention of eliminating the tax loopholes that allow the wealthy to engage in the actions that they are accused of in this series. It would be political suicide. Sidebar here - isn't it interesting that there is no mention of the fact that governments and regulators make the laws that the wealthy take full advantage of. Aren't we all looking to pay as little tax as possible. In Greece, it's practically a national pass time!

  3. For the most part, estate planning, wealth structuring and wealth preservation is a very law abiding sector where 99% of the structures and actions are legal and ethical and the IFC's where they are managed are highly regulated and practise serious due diligence and KYC.

  4. Perhaps naming and shaming the rich and blaming them for all of the world's ills has gotten old methinks in the light of COVID 19, continuing political upheavals, and Trump fatigue.

Postscript here:

I've worked in communications strategy, crisis and issues management for over 25 years and I've read some of the seriously good investigative journalism by this group and I am at a loss as to why this old chestnut keeps coming up and distracting them from the work that they do so well.

Stories that matter and make a difference.

If the ICIJ are really interested in this topic, I'd be happy to introduce them to a group of subject matter experts from private sector, academia, government and regulators that will blow their socks off.

This topic is massively complicated and multiple shades of gray. There are many players and they have conflicting multiple agendas for sure.

But, in a turn of the tables, the question that I would like to ask the ICIJ as a communications professional who has worked with many of the IFC's that are constantly being bombarded by accusations of skullduggery is this:

Why is it that the fact that this information was obtained as a result of data theft never mentioned?

No need to name the source, i.e. the hackers who passed this on, but do you not think that at some point you should actually cop to the fact that this is stolen data?

Information obtained by illegal activity.

Confidential information that has no right to be shared with anyone. Information once made public has potential to be used for further criminal activities such as kidnapping, blackmail and fraud.

Nope, there is no mention of where all these 14 million or so files came from. None whatsoever.

"By encouraging hackers to go after an individual's personal information and then sensationalizing it, you enable some serious cyber crime."

Apparently the fairies delivered them to a secret dropbox as a gift for the ICIJ. A gift that once again allowed them to create a simple, juvenile narrative that leans heavily on familiar tropes and is completely lacking in any shades of gray. A story that could have been written by a first year journalism student completely without context and any measure of sophisticated reporting. I expect better from them and hope to God that they stop with the sensational muck-racking.

Two parting thoughts for the august members of the ICIJ;

By encouraging hackers to go after an individual's personal information and then sensationalizing it, you enable some serious cyber crime. Shame on you all the way around.

I wonder how the individual members of the ICIJ would feel if their personal information was hacked and then sent to me to interpret and sensationalise for all to read?

Your credit card statements, investments, out of the box hobbies and memberships, your divorce details and youthful indiscretions... you get the drift.

Think about it, I could have some serious fun with it and I guarantee you that the first thing that those journalists would say to me is "this information is none of your business and you have no right to publish it!"

Full stop.

Funny that!

Kerry Harris, CSMO.

Smart Structuring

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