The Pandora Papers have prompted policymakers to consider legal changes that would bring more transparency to the murky world of financial trusts and restore some of the wealth stolen by corrupt politicians and criminals to its rightful owners.
But here in South Dakota, where Republicans beholden to their trust-lawyer friends responded to revelations of our state’s facilitation of global corruption and erosion of democracy with cries of success!, legislators have not proposed a single bill dealing with the state’s trust industry. (Well, Representative Charlie Hoffman’s House Bill 1152 dealing with corpse disposal rights is placed under SDCL Title 55 on Fiduciaries and Trusts, but its focus is burial rights, not the actual financial workings of the trust industry.) Rather than taking action, Republican legislators are simply dismissing the evidence of the need for action:
Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack (R-Union Center) told reporters in a news conference Thursday some lawmakers heard a presentation from people in South Dakota’s trust industry.
“I have all the confidence in the world that that sorta thing isn’t happening in South Dakota,” Cammack said. “The amount of vetting that they do to even accept a customer is absolutely amazing. They chase every rabbit down every trail.”
…“I don’t buy the report that was presented last fall,” House Majority Leader Kent Peterson (R-Salem) said. “The work that they do is done the right way” [Eric Mayer, “Republican Leadership Says No Trust Industry Bills Expected,” KELO-TV, 2022.02.10].
Kent, what part of the evidence revealed by the Pandora Papers don’t you buy? What did hundreds of journalists from 117 countries poring through 11.9 million records get wrong? Where are you and Gary hearing from anyone other than the trust tricksters themselves that the Pandora Papers are bunk and that everything in the trust industry is fine?
The trust industry has evidently decided to keep its head down this Session, proposing none of the usual arcane “improvements” that might give conscientious legislators and candidates for Governor the chance to question the wisdom of letting a handful of lawyers write the trust laws that help them get rich off global money laundering. They must be making enough money now, so they’ll let the Pandora Papers fade from the headlines before bringing their next round of personal wealth enhancements.
But given Senator Cammack’s assertion that South Dakota’s trust industry does an “absolutely amazing” job of vetting, perhaps we can at least be assured that, if Russia invades Ukraine, South Dakota’s responsible and patriotic trust managers will support global moves for sanctions by seizing any and all assets they hold for Putin and Russia’s oligarchs and handing them over to Uncle Sam. Or heck, maybe we could throw that Russian money into South Dakota’s budget and use it to pay for shooting ranges. What would Russia do, invade us?