Offshore philanthropy

Timothy Ogden and Laura Starita

Organized philanthropy exists because a few individuals are able to accumulate a vast surplus of resources. Given how much good is done with philanthropic donations, it seems ungrateful to look too closely at the source of that money. Yet recent financial data leaks, including the Panama Papers and the earlier HSBC Swiss Files, act like glasses for the myopic—they bring into focus one of the wealth management practices that enables private individuals to hold on to resources. Moreover, a number of named individuals are well-known philanthropic donors. With these revelations, the sector should look hard at the uncomfortable ways in which some of our most respected institutions and advocates may be complicit in questionable practices.

Investigations into the Panama Papers and the Swiss Files are still ongoing, but have to date listed members of the donor community. The finance billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations, owns three offshore companies.

Dr David Potter CBE, co-founder of the David and Elaine Potter Foundation.

UK resident David Potter, co-founder of the David and Elaine Potter Foundation, appeared in the HSBC Swiss Files as holding approximately £70 million in bank accounts in Switzerland, and paying little to no UK tax on other assets due in part to UK “non-domicile” exemptions offered to wealthy non-citizens living in the UK (Potter is South African).

Next Analysis to read

Corporate Foundations in Fontainebleau: A significant ‘first’

Steffen Bethmann and Theresa Gehringer