The Panama Papers: A Discussion of Some Ethical Issues

57 Pages Posted: 29 May 2016 Last revised: 30 May 2016

See all articles by Robert W. McGee

Robert W. McGee

Fayetteville State University - Department of Accounting

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 27, 2016


The Panama Papers refers to a massive leak of information encompassing more than 11 million documents involving more than 200,000 offshore entities. The leak originated in Panama. Some of the documents involve transactions as far back as the 1970s. Numerous wealthy individuals, including top government officials from many countries, have been implicated. The release of information and documents has led to several resignations and numerous lawsuits. The end of litigation is not in sight, as lawyers and government agencies in several countries continue to read and digest the information.

Although there is nothing illegal per se about having offshore entities, some such entities have been used to hide assets, evade income taxes, launder money and evade sanctions. The whistleblower who leaked the information to Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, called himself John Doe to maintain anonymity. He leaked the information because of his strong distaste for income inequality and because of his view that there were many injustices being perpetrated by some of the entities and individuals who were availing themselves of the entities.

This paper discusses some of the underlying ethical issues that lurk beneath the surface of most discussions about hiding assets and income offshore. The discussion will focus on the ethics of parking profits (or hiding assets) offshore, tax evasion, bribery, and whistle blowers.

This paper also includes links to more than 80 studies on tax evasion and 11 studies on bribery.

Keywords: whistle blowers, tax evasion, tax compliance, bribery, ethics, Panama Papers, offshore accounts, corruption, scandals, FCPA, money laundering

JEL Classification: D63, E62, G18, G28, G38, H24, H25, H26, H56, J18, K14, K34, K42, L84

Suggested Citation

McGee, Robert W., The Panama Papers: A Discussion of Some Ethical Issues (May 27, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Robert W. McGee (Contact Author)

Fayetteville State University - Department of Accounting ( email )

Fayetteville, NC 28301
United States


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