Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does Tommy Thompson work for a Private Equity Firm that uses an Off Shore Tax Shelter?

Wow, could we possibly hear any more about private equity than we have this last week?

Of course, we can!

It probably will come as little surprise that Tommy Thompson has dabbled in the Private Equity business. He joined the Boston-based  Peak Ridge Capital Group in 2010. It looks like PRCG was so happy to have Thompson aboard that they created an office in Madison, but the Wisconsin branch office isn't nearly as interesting as the one in Hamilton, Bermuda, which is well-known as a popular tax haven.

Unfortunately, PE firms are notorious for their lack of transparency. They are, after all, private firms and don't usually have to file SEC papers and what have you (there are exceptions). I actually had a monster of a time just trying to find which companies were in Peak Ridge's portfolio and no luck trying to find where they are incorporated. They seem to have registered with the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth, but did so in 2007, seven years after they were founded.

Anyway, most Caribbean tax shelters have a couple of rules for using their countries to hide revenue from Uncle Sam. The first is that the business has to establish a physical presence on the island, usually in the form of a P.O. Box. The second, and I'm told this rule varies from island to island, is that the company must hold at least one board of directors meeting on the island every year. Both are true of Bermuda. The take-away here is that firms don't set up offices in Bermuda unless they're doing business in Bermuda, and the only businesses in Bermuda are wearing kick-ass shorts once a year and sheltering taxes.

This is probably one of those things more respectable people should look into.

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