Why one hedge-fund titan is bracing for ‘all hell to break loose’ in the stock market

Skeptics of Wall Street’s recent rally, which has been borne on the hope of pro-growth promises from Trump coming to into full view sooner than later, predict that an inevitable failure of the president to make good on his policy promises could jolt markets violently lower.

Singer is among those fearing that very scenario. He is betting that an economic recession may be on the horizon and believes that, with interest rates already near ultralow levels, the Federal Reserve won’t be able to provide a sufficient quantitative-easing cushion, as it did during the 2008-’09 financial crisis.

Hidden assets, hidden costs

These mostly concerned the alleged smuggling of $65 million out of Argentina on behalf of its President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – hardly startling news if true, given the country and the person but the documents also included what really mattered: full corporate information on the 123 name-plate-only (“shell”) companies that were used to zig-zag the money surreptitiously around the world, all of them formed by a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca.

.. Not even the ultra-formidable billionaire Paul Singer, who had bought up heavily discounted Argentine debt .. could do anything about the $65 million sitting tantalizingly close to him in Nevada – but now all the data was revealed (too late for Singer because Argentina’s new President, Mauricio Macri, also a Mossack Fonseca client as it happens, had already decided to settle and pay him off, along with all the other hold-out claimants).

.. This was the beginning of a flood of 11.5 million documents containing the records of the formation and transactions of 214,000 nameplate companies, including full documentation of their initiators (passport data page scans, etc), all of whom are, or are serving, tax avoiders – in ways legal, but unethical and duplicitous

.. this is an extremely important book – this decade’s most important rather than this year’s

.. because it offers an entirely new perspective on the greatest question of the age: why has income distribution in the more developed economies become increasingly unequal pari passu  with the advance of globalization?

.. disregarding the overwhelming evidence that much of that consists of the transfer of income from lower-income people in higher-income countries to higher-income people in lower-income countries.

.. we now know that globalization has caused rising inequality in quite another way than the transfer of higher-paying manufacturing jobs and all other such phen­omena

.. Mossack Fonseca’s 214,000 offshore companies alone (and there are many other such shell companies, formed by many other law firms) handled not millions or billions but trillions of dollars in their totality

.. When the less affluent must pay their payroll taxes and income taxes in full, while the more affluent with offshore companies do not pay their own taxes, the total effect of the taxation system is regressive

.. Once we recognize the sheer magnitude of “offshored” income flows, and once we take into account the strongly regressive effects of supposedly progressive taxation systems, the phenomenon of rising inequality in affluent societies may not need much additional explaining – and it hardly matters if those were tax-avoidance or tax-evasion trillions.

.. Much less surprising is the abundance of Mossack Fonseca clients in the leadership of UEFA and FIFA: because football earnings are so very large it stands to reason that they should be offshored rather than wasted in paying taxes.

.. If Putin wants someone’s Moscow mega-mansion, for example, he need only let the owner know whether he wants it as it is, or cleared of furniture, and the same is true of anything else in Russia: his power is limited only by his own considerable restraint.

.. it is the outright crooks, drug-traffickers and such, who are more honest fiscally at least, because most would dearly love to pay income taxes on their earnings, if only they could do so without being arrested, thereby acquiring legal wealth they could enjoy and show off

.. the same authorities that routinely identify, track and remotely kill individual terrorists in distant countries, which they occasionally bomb for one reason or another, profess themselves impotent before the blithely meretricious officials of micro-countries that contain little else but banks that conduct no local business, whose only raison d’être is very plainly to facilitate avoidance and collude in evasion.

.. only the German tax authorities seem ready to buy it from the thieves without making a fuss, thereby recovering billions for a few million