“The Village Of Billionaires: An Examination Of The Paradox Of Relative Poverty” By Dr. Alexis Brassey and Professor Henry Ordower

The Cambridge Tax Discussion Group is a PhD student run meeting group with weekly discussions of wide-ranging tax-related topics. We have been meeting weekly during term-time since 2015 and hope to continue with engaging topics that are tax or tangentially tax-related topics! We are friendly, open to all and interdisciplinary. We sincerely hope you will join us on our next online meeting which will be on Thursday 11 June at 17:00 (British Summer Time). See our “Meetings” page for updated talks, links and previous topics covered.

This week’s talk can also be found on talks.cam along with an assortment of university-wide talks: http://www.talks.cam.ac.uk/talk/index/148804

This week, Dr Alexis Brassey, from the University of Cambridge, and Professor Henry Ordower, from Saint Louis University, will be discussing tax fairness in an international context, under the title “The Village Of Billionaires: An Examination Of The Paradox Of Relative Poverty”. Further details are below.

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday.

May Hen-Smith and Guy Mulley Co-convenors, Cambridge Tax Discussion Group


Tax justice and principles underpinning the international tax regime are in vogue. The idea that companies and individuals need to pay their “fair share”, not just in the domestic sense but also the international sense, is now a mainstream position. This paper explores the problems relating to what might constitute a “fair share” by setting out what is meant when this expression is used. A reasonable assumption is to consider taxation as the means by which the state funds public services and in some jurisdictions, contributes to greater equality within society. Those goals, however, give rise to competing claims. This is especially the case when considering international tax challenges, for example those faced by the OECD ’s 2019 work plan. This paper, in examining competing claims for tax revenues, considers the specic categories of relative as opposed to absolute poverty. If one accepts that taxation is to fund public services, the question arises, at least in international tax, which jurisdiction’s public services? If the motivation for raising tax is to tackle inequality, what has the greater claim, international inequality or national inequality? It is in answering these questions that we need to address the issue of which is more pressing, relative as opposed to absolute poverty? The contention in this paper is that there is a far stronger moral claim for tax to be redistributed on an international basis rather than on a nation basis. Further, this paper contends that purported moral claims which seek to address inequality within national borders are merely political demands made to further the economic interests of particular groups who themselves are amongst the most economically privileged, when viewed on an international spectrum. The article is designed for those progressive or communitarians who strongly advocate for redistribution within national boundaries. It is not designed to appeal to those of a libertarian perspective.


alexis-2_cutout_do-not-save-copy-485x302Dr Alexis Brassey is a Solicitor and a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Tax Law at the University of Cambridge. He holds an MA in Philosophy, an LLM in Corporate Law and a PhD in Psychology, as well as a PhD in Law. His research in Tax Law encompasses tax avoidance, constitutional law, tax fairness and jurisprudence. He has also worked in investment banking.

2017 Marketing ShootHenry Ordower is Professor of Law at the Center for International and Comparative Law at Saint Louis University. His recent research has focussed on issues of tax distribution and the growing disparity of wealth between individuals. In addition to his academic research and teaching, he runs a tax consulting practice and he provides expert testimony in complex tax litigation matters. An avid traveller and linguist, Professor Ordower has visited more than 100 countries.

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“How Pillar 1 redraws the global tax base map: a look at the march towards consensus” By Allison Christians

This week we are leading with another excellent topic with leading tax expert, Professor Allison Christians, on the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, Pillar 1 project. This term, the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group will be going digital due to University closures. The online talk which is open to all, will take place Thursday June 4th at 9:00 EDT (2pm BST). E-mail hmh46@cam.ac.uk or gevm2@cam.ac.uk for link or find additional information on Cam Talks here: http://www.talks.cam.ac.uk/talk/index/148267


Abstract: The OECD continues its mandate to reallocate the global profits of certain digital economy firms for tax purposes. Combining the OECD’s own impact analysis with independent research, it is now possible to draw a very rough sketch of how Pillar 1 would accomplish this, and therefore to see how firms and nations are likely to fare under the OECD Secretariat’s preferred approach. Even so, it is not clear that there will be enough time for all Inclusive Framework members to move from rough sketch to policy certainty in time to make decisions about whether the Secretariat’s approach constitutes a mutually beneficial consensus. In this presentation I will walk through the technical specs of Pillar 1 with an example to demonstrate its policy implication

Refer to paper here


Allison Christians is the H. Heward Stikeman Chair in the Law of Taxation at the McGill University Faculty of Law where she teaches and writes on national, comparative, and international tax law and policy. She focuses especially on the relationship between taxation and economic development, the role of government and non-government institutions and actors in the creation of tax policy norms, and the intersection of taxation and human rights. She has written numerous scholarly articles, essays, and book chapters, as well as essays, columns, and articles in professional journals and has been named one of the “Global Tax 50” most influential individuals in international taxation. Recent research focuses on evolving international norms of tax cooperation and competition; the relationship between tax and sustainable development; the impact of technology on tax policy, and evolving conceptions of rights in taxation. Professor Christians also engages on topics of tax law and policy via her website http://www.allisonchristians.com and on twitter @profchristians.

“What Does the Incoherence of the Efficiency Concept Mean for Law?” By Neil Buchanan

This term, the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group will be going digital due to University closures. We have an exciting talk by professor Neil Buchanan which will take place Thursday May 28th at 12:00 EDT (5pm BST).

To attend, please e-mail May (hmh46@cam.ac.uk) or Guy (gevm2@cam.ac.uk) to obtain the link to our discussion group for tomorrow or to be added to our weekly mailing list. All are welcome!


Despite its ubiquity in economics and legal theory, the notion of economic efficiency is incoherent and thus does not provide an objective guide to policy or analysis.  I am in the early stages of planning a book project in which I will write the lead chapter explaining why the efficiency concept is misunderstood and thus misused, and in the remaining chapters other scholars will explain how their fields of law should change once we stop treating efficiency as a meaningful concept.  In this talk, I will explain in brief why efficiency has no fixed meaning and then explore with all of you what the other chapters of my planned book might cover (and who might write those chapters).  Interested participants who want to read something in advance can focus on Parts II and V of this forthcoming article.

Professor Neil H. Buchanan is the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar Chair in Taxation and UF Law’s Director of Global Scholarly Initiatives.  He frequently lectures and serves as a visiting scholar at universities around the world, most recently at Cambridge University and the University of Vienna, among others.  He is nationally and internationally known for his groundbreaking work on intergenerational justice, retirement security, constitutional issues in government budgeting, and a fundamental critique of orthodox economic theory. Professor Buchanan graduated from Vassar College and received his J.D. from the University of Michigan, A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Economics from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Laws from Monash University in Australia.  He clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.  Professor Buchanan teaches both J.D. and LL.M. students at UF Levin College of Law.



For further information, please go to:https://www.law.ufl.edu/faculty/neil-buchanan

The Amsterdam Compensation case of the taxation of returning Holocaust survivors by Cornel Marian

Our final presentation of the term was led by Cornel Marian, visiting researcher at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. Below is a brief description of the presentation for those of you who could not attend. 

Pic Announcement.jpgCornel Marian is a senior legal counsel, based in Stockholm (Sweden). His focus is on general corporate matters and disputes, including compliance and taxation matters. He is currently completing his PhD at the University of Frankfurt after obtaining his law degrees in the United States (J.D.) and Sweden (juristexamen)

“The Amsterdam Compensation case of the taxation of returning Holocaust survivors”

The Amsterdam compensation case follows the story of the 217 unveiled letters from returning Holocaust survivors who pleaded with the city to waive the delinquent payments arising from the time they were held in concentration camps. In 1947, the City of Amsterdam sought the input from the enforcement of authorities and a separate committee that both recommended the enforcement of the delinquent fees as it would create a faulty precedent. The final decision enforced these fees and was never appealed. The formal decision (Municipality Decision No. 518) addressed the issue in terms of the occupation of territory during the rule of a foreign power, which did not negate the obligation for the lessee to pay its dues on the property. The presentation discussed the findings, including the discrepancy of the nature of the fees and how they were commonly reported as ‘taxes’ in the media. Finally, the presentation addressed the silver lining of this entire story. In 2017, the city conducted a detailed report that prompted the compensation of ca. 10 MEUR to the surviving victims.






A Portrait of Alibaba – By Fa-Alpha Chen

Last week, Fa-Alpha Chen a PhD student reading law at the University of Cambridge, presented an overview of Alibaba. Below is a briefing of some of his discussion:

A Portrait of Alibaba – By Fa-Alpha Chen

This topic will give a brief introduction of Alibaba in the dimensions of corporate governance and IP.

  1. The business units of Alibaba

Most people understand Alibaba as a platform involving E-commerce. However, Alibaba has already expanded its business in quite broad fields, covering digital finance (Alipay), cloud computing and big data (Alibaba Cloud), culture and entertainment (Youku, UC),Travel (Navi: Autonavi; Bicycle sharing: Hellobike),item delivery (Cainiao), etc.

Some of the business units were incubated from E-commerce, e.g. Alipay and Alibaba Cloud, while some were the outcome of acquisition of other companies, e.g. Youku and Autonavi, both of which were previously US-listed companies before going private to be private subsidiaries of Alibaba.

  1. Alibaba Partnership

Even though Alibaba adopts the one-share-one-vote principle, the real controller of this company is not the largest shareholder. Instead, the Alibaba Partners as a whole is the actual controller.

When going public on NYSE, Alibaba (Stock Symbol: BABA) designed a unique framework above the board, namely, Alibaba Partnership, which in fact decides the operation of Alibaba. This partnership enjoys two special rights: one is the exclusive right to nominate directors, while the other relates to the allocation of bonus.

According to the articles of association, even though the director nominees should be appointed at the general meeting of shareholders, in case these nominees are denied by the general meeting of shareholders or leave the board after election regardless of the reason, Alibaba Partnership enjoys the right to appoint an interim director who serves until the following annual general meeting of shareholders. There is no limitation of such an appointment in terms of frequency, which means that as long as the nominees chosen by Alibaba Partnership are not elected by the general meeting of shareholders, this Partnership could appoint interim directors constantly. Such a stipulation results in an effect that Alibaba Partnership has the actual power to nominate directors, even though in the name of nominees or interim directors. Furthermore, pursuant to the articles, whenever the directors nominated (including the interim directors appointed) by Alibaba Partnership take up less than a majority of the total directors on board, Alibaba Partnership is empowered to appoint additional directors to the board at its sole discretion without any additional shareholder approval to ensure that the directors nominated or appointed by Alibaba Partnership could comprise a simple majority of the board. According to BABA’s recent annual report, there are eleven directors on the board currently, of which five are Alibaba Partnership nominees. Consequently, this Partnership is entitled to appoint two additional directors to increase its nominees to seven, occupying a simple majority of the thirteen directors in total.

Alibaba Partnership also determines the allocation of corporate bonus. The allocation of bonus,prima facie, is decided by the compensation committee according to its articles of association. However, the compensation committee is established by the board of directors. Since Alibaba Partnership controls at least a simple majority of the directors as discussed above, it determines the de facto allocation of bonus.

Several other stipulations in the articles of association make Alibaba Partnership unbreakable. Firstly, the election of partners is the own business of this Partnership. The number of partners is dynamic and new partners are elected annually. The election of new partners requires the approval of at least 75% of all the partners without the participation of shareholders. Secondly, Alibaba Partnership’s nomination rights and related provisions of the articles of association cannot be changed unless upon 95% of voting rights. Due to the agreement between Alibaba Partnership and the largest two shareholders of BABA named Softbank and Yahoo which hold approximately 30% and 15% of shares respectively, as well as the fact that the co-founders Jack Ma and Joseph C. Tsai jointly hold about 8% of the total shares, it is impossible for outsiders to collect 95% of voting rights to abolish this Partnership per seas well as its exclusive directors nomination right. Lastly, there is a bottom clause that where any change of control, merger or sale of BABA, Alibaba Partnership should not be transferred or otherwise delegated or given a proxy to any third-party with respect to the right to nominate directors.

  1. IP Related Facet

Each year, Alibaba spends a lot of money to import movies, TV drama, music from overseas producers, e.g. Sherlock 4 from BBC. Since it relates to cross-border IP licence, the relevant protection via litigation against infringement is, in practice, a difficult problem in China.

Firstly, who has the right to initiate litigation? IP license could be conducted on either an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. The right to initiate and deal with litigation is another right other than Intellectual Property Rights. In order for Alibaba to file litigation, it should get relevant authorisation from overseas producers. The litigation could be filed in Alibaba’s own name or on behalf of both itself and the foreign producer, depending on the contract terms.

Secondly, all the documents (e.g. Letter of Authorisation) should be legalised through notarisation, e.g. A notary issues a certificate to certify that the Letter of Authorisation  between BBC and Alibaba is signed on his face and the signature is true. According to the Articles of Association of BBC, the person who signed the Letter of Authorisation has the right to do so. The Ministry of Justice needs to certify that the notary is qualified. Chinese authority needs to certify the certificate issued by the Ministry of Justice of the UK. All the documents need to be translated in Chinese by a qualified translator.

Lastly, the litigation will be quite time-consuming, and it is normal for such a litigation to last for 2-3 years to receive a final ruling from the court. Moreover, the compensation for the plaintiff is very low.

Unjust enrichment in the case of Sempra Metals Ltd v IRC, the UK House of Lords – By Long Pham

Topic: In Sempra Metals Ltd v IRC, the UK House of Lords held that, as a matter of the law of unjust enrichment, a taxpayer is entitled to recover compound interest on tax levied in breach of EU law. However, in July of this year, the UK Supreme Court in Prudential Assurance Co Ltd v HMRC overruled Sempra Metals. Long will discuss the Prudential Assurance decision and its implications.
Biography: Long Pham is reading for the LL.M. at the University of Cambridge. His primary interest lies in private law and, in particular, contract, equity and unjust enrichment. Before arriving in Cambridge, Long was an associate at Herbert Smith Freehills in Australia and Hong Kong where he practised in commercial litigation and international arbitration. He can be reached at nlp33@cam.ac.uk


Unjust enrichment in the case of Sempra Metals Ltd v IRC, the UK House of Lords

In Sempra Metals v IRC, the House of Lords held that, as a matter of the law of unjust enrichment, a taxpayer could recover compound interest on taxes prematurely levied in breach of EU law. However, in July of this year, the Supreme Court in Prudential Assurance v HMRCoverruled Sempra Metals.

This post looks at the Supreme Court’s decision and what it means.

What is unjust enrichment?

The law of unjust enrichment concerns the reversal of normatively defective transfers of value.  For example, if I mistakenly pay you £50, the law of unjust enrichment says that you have to give it back to me.

Under English law, a claimant will have an unjust enrichment claim where

(1)   the defendant was enriched,

(2)   the enrichment was at the claimant’s expense,

(3)   the enrichment was unjust and

(4)   the defendant has no defences.

Where the above conditions are satisfied, the claimant has a right to restitution of the enrichment.

Sempra Metals

In 2001, the ECJ held that the ICTA infringed EU law insofar as it permitted corporate groups wholly resident in the UK to defer payment of corporations tax on intragroup dividends without extending the same advantage to corporate groups containing parents resident elsewhere in the EU.

The remedial consequences under English law of the ECJ’s ruling were examined in Sempra Metals.  The House of Lords held, by majority, that the claimant-taxpayer had a claim in unjust enrichment to recover compound interest on the prematurely levied tax.  The essential reasoning was that – in receiving the tax – the Revenue had been enriched not only by the money itself but also the opportunity to use the money ahead of time.  The value of the latter enrichment (use of the money) was the saving of the compound interest which the Revenue would have had to pay to borrow an equivalent amount. In circumstances where this enrichment had been unjust – because the taxpayer had paid the tax under a mistake of law as to its ability to defer payment – the Revenue had to give it back.

Prudential Assurance

But all this has changed thanks to Prudential Assurance.

There – following an ECJ ruling that the ICTA breached EU law in providing for differential tax treatment of UK-sourced dividends and foreign-sourced dividends – the claimant-taxpayer sought compound interest on taxes unlawfully levied on dividends received from foreign subsidiaries.  Overruling Sempra Metals, the Supreme Court held that the taxpayer was confined to simple statutory interest and could not recover compound interest (save in respect of one class of amounts where the Revenue conceded – incorrectly it turned out – that compound interest should be awarded).

In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court pointed out that, since Sempra Metals, there had been various developments in the law of unjust enrichment including as to the requirement that the enrichment be at the claimant’s expense.  In particular, that requirement had been interpreted as requiring a direct transfer of value from the claimant to the defendant.  This was said to call into question the reasoning in Sempra Metalsthat, where the tax was prematurely paid, there was an additional and simultaneous transfer of value comprising the opportunity to use the money.  The opportunity to use the money – the Supreme Court said – was a consequence of the transfer of the money but could not itself be regarded as an additional transfer of value capable of grounding an unjust enrichment claim.

With respect, this is difficult to accept.  If I steal your bike, can it really be said that the opportunity to ride the bike has not been transferred from you to me?  In this example, my gain in being able to ride the bike corresponds to your loss in no longer being able to ride the bike.  There is a direct transfer of value.  The same must surely be true of cases involving the opportunity to use money. The Supreme Court’s reasoning appears to have confused the opportunity to use money with the use to which the money is actually put.

It is clear from the judgment that the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Sempra Metalswas also based on considerations sitting outside the law of unjust enrichment.  For example, the Supreme Court noted that later decisions had revealed the severe disruption to public finances that Sempra Metalscould cause.  Thus, in one case concerning VAT unlawfully levied between 1973 and 2004, the difference between awarding compound interest and simple interest equated to £17 billion.  The Supreme Court also observed that Sempra Metalshad caused problems in light of limitation rules which provided that an unjust enrichment claim based on mistake could be brought within six years of the mistake being discovered irrespective of how long ago the payment was made.  While Parliament had tried to address these problems using retroactive legislation, those attempts had themselves fallen foul of EU law.

The immediate effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in Prudential Assuranceis that a taxpayer can no longer rely on unjust enrichment to recover compound interest on unlawfully levied tax.  But the decision’s effects travel beyond this. This is because the Supreme Court’s reasoning was not limited to the tax cases; instead, it applies to all cases where a claimant seeks the restitution of money on the basis of unjust enrichment. In these cases, going forward, a successful claimant will be able to get back the money’s face value (plus simple interest) but not the money’s use value.  While there are sound policy reasons for not awarding compound interest in cases of unlawfully levied taxes (including, as the Supreme Court noted, the disturbance to public finances), such reasons are absent in the private contexts in which unjust enrichment law more typically operates.  Not awarding compound interest in those contexts runs the risk of denying full restitution to a successful claimant.

The Separation of Powers – Dream or Reality? – By Ewa Plesnar

It was a beautiful, autumn afternoon on the 25th of October when our “tax tax tax dot tax” group (as we call it) discussed my current working paper, entitled “The Separation of Powers (SOP) – Dream or Reality?” As always, the meeting involved a paper presentation followed by a discussion.

My current topic of interest seeks to resolve the question regarding the applicability of the separation of powers (SOP) in the European governmental systems; both in theory and practice, with the UK as a central point of analysis. I also explore other theories which claim the SOP and the rule of law (ROL) are outdated concepts and becoming misapplied in the modern world. This opens a way for some academics to look for other, in their opinion, beneficial ways for society to structure states.

The presentation started with a short introduction to the history of Parliament in the UK. The aim of that was to understand a long tradition of the SOP and the ROL in the UK. That point was followed by the explanation of the rule of law, which is very strongly connected with the SOP. Both create a very important political background in the UK. In basic terms, the role of the ROL is to restrain the sovereign from the arbitrary power; nowadays ROL is considered as reflected in a form of the separation of powers within the state. We examined the historical evolution of ROL from an English perspective with a particular focus on the Magna Carta 1215, the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Parliament Act 1911.

In terms of definition we spoke about the theory presented by Dicey, who is considered in the UK as being a “father” of the ROL. His concept of the rule of law contains the absolute supremacy of a regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power as well as the equality before the law. Prof Loughlin understands that the UK has a long tradition of the ROL that is not necessarily applicable in the other parts of Europe where the legal system is based on the civil law (as opposed to common law).

I then presented the theory proposed by M. Oakeshott, one of the most interesting (in my view) political philosophers. For Oakeshott, the concept of ROL must envisage humans joined in a relationship specifiable in terms of certain exclusive conditions, namely laws. He proposes two kinds of concepts of society that, he says, are always in conflict with one another, namely: universitas (or transactional association, where members are focused on achieving a particular aim) and societas (or moral association, where the society members are joined not to seek a common substantive satisfaction but to explore the conditions and relationships between them). In each of those associations law plays a different part.

In order to see how SOP works in practice, we explored the legislative process in the UK beginning with the bill (i.e. the draft of the legislation) which is received and discussed by the Parliament. It is then discussed by the Parliamentary Committees and then voted by both Houses (where the final decision is made by the Commons, as they were elected). We identified the following problems: the bill is almost always proposed by the government and it is not analysed thoroughly by the Parliament (reason being a lack of time or lack of expertise). That leaves us with the question as to the factual applicability of SOP in the UK legislative system and the real possibility of that application in practice.

Finally, we moved to speak about the modernisation of the state. According to some theorists, the modern state becomes an administrative state where in the name of security, prosperity and liberty modern governments have greatly expanded their executive powers. Although, the theory applies mainly to the continental Europe, the practical influence of that in the UK is also visible. The question is whether, in the rise of administrative powers, we can continue speaking of SOP’s applicability.

GAAR, the Rule of Law and Prosecco! – By Ewa Plesnar

By Ewa Plesnar

During our tax summer picnic Dr Alexis Brassey presented his paper on GAAR rules. The paper was entitled “Tax and the Erosion of the Rule of Law” and related to Dr Brassey’s PhD thesis researched at Cambridge University during the past few years.


The talk obviously started with a glass of Prosecco in the beautiful surroundings of Jesus Colleges’ Gardens. Because no one, who respects the separation of powers and the rule of law, is able to discuss GAAR without a hint of alcohol. Why is that? Because, as Dr Brassey showed, GAAR causes a substantial erosion of the rule of law.

At first, Dr Brassey explained that the rule of law, which creates the basis of the UK political system, has its roots in ancient Rome. In basic terms, the role of ROL is to restrain the sovereign from the arbitrary power; nowadays it is considered as reflected in a form of the separation of powers within the state. Here, we examined the historical evolution of ROL from an English perspective. There was a particular focus on the Magna Carta 1215, the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Parliament Act 1911.

After considering the ROL, we discussed tax avoidance. As Dr Brassey explained, tax avoidance involves bending the rules of the tax system to gain a tax advantage that Parliament never intended. It often involves contrived, artificial transactions that serve little or no purpose other than to produce this advantage. It involves operating within the letter, but not the spirit, of the law. Just to clarify, tax avoidance differs from tax evasion where the later relates to actions forbidden by law.

We discussed some important case law like Duke of Westminster case (dated 1936; established a literal approach to tax legislation) and Ramsey case (1980s; important as established a principle of purposive interpretation of tax law) that were considered as breakthrough in legal tax theory. The cases mentioned above are especially important because they are clearly related to whether anti avoidance rules can be applicable.


Finally, we discussed GAAR rules that are the central point of Dr Braasey’s thesis. The GAAR rules were introduced into the UK legal system in 2013 and they stand for the General Anti Avoidance Rules. The primary policy objective of the GAAR is to deter taxpayers from entering into abusive arrangements, and to deter would-be promoters from promoting such arrangements.

Starting with what is meant by the “abusive agreement” is just one of the problems with GAAR. The wording used in the legislation as well as its aim gives the UK government (as oppose to the Parliament) very broad legislative powers. That in turn can result in government behaving arbitrarily to taxpayers. A situation that should not exist in a country ruled by the ROL. No ROL has political and economic consequences such as loss of freedom, arbitrary power, reduction of investment and economic activity!

At the end of the talk, possibly under the influence of Prosecco, we felt more positive and all agreed that it’s good we live in a country where judges are very knowledgeable and are unlikely to abuse the anti-abusive rule. It is scary to think how that rule would apply in less liberal countries.


Special event: documentary film screening April 26th

Spidersweb-poster-HighRes300dpi_03The Jesus College Graduate Society (MCR) and Jesus College Intellectual Forum are co-hosting a special documentary film screening of “The Spider’s Web: An investigation into the world of Britain’s secrecy jurisdictions and the City of London”. A discussion and wine reception will follow special with guest speakers: producer John Christensen and Michael Oswald, as well as professor Jason Sharman. Chairing the event will be professor Barry Rider, an established expert on economic crime. Event is free and open to members of the University. For additional information please contact May at hmh46@cam.ac.uk




DATE/TIME:     THURSDAY APRIL 26, 2018 at 17:30 – 20:00

LOCATION:     JESUS COLLEGE BREWERY ROOM (below Roost Café/Bar in West Court)

MORE INFO:            http://spiderswebfilm.com or e-mail hmh46@cam.ac.uk

 The Spiders Web: Britains Second Empire, is a documentary film that shows how Britain transformed from a colonial power into a global financial power. At the demise of empire, City of London financial interests created a web of offshore secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it behind obscure financial structures in a web of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth may be hidden in British offshore jurisdictions and Britain and its offshore jurisdictions are the largest global players in the world of international finance. How did this come about, and what impact does it have on the world today? This is what the Spiders Web sets out to investigate.

With contributions from leading experts, academics, former insiders and campaigners for social justice, the use of stylized broll and archive footage, the Spiders Web reveals how in the world of international finance, corruption and secrecy have prevailed over regulation and transparency, and the UK is right at the heart of this.


May Hen, PhD Student, University of Cambridge


Barry Rider – PROFESSORIAL FELLOW, CENTRE OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES – In addition to teaching law at the University of Cambridge since 1976 Barry has also held numerous public service appointments including Head of the Commonwealth Commercial Crime Unit and Assistant Director (Legal) in the Commonwealth Secretariat. He has also worked for the IMF, as counsel and has been a consultant to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Financial Services Board, European Union and various UN and regional organisations. He has also practiced law as a barrister, government lawyer (in various jurisdictions) and with the City law firm Beachcroft LLP and the US international law firm Bryan Cave LLP. In recent years his principal clients have been the Kuwait Investment Authority and the People’s Bank of China. He also is the Co-Chairman of the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime.


John ChristensenPRODUCER, INVESTIGATIVE ECONOMIST AND ACTIVIST is the co-founder and executive director of the Tax Justice Network. His investigations into the role of tax havens in the globalised economy started in 1978, and have included fourteen years working on the tax haven of Jersey. He is a vocal critic of tax havens and is today described as Jersey’s most prominent dissident.

Michael OswaldDIRECTOR AND PRODUCER – is an independent documentary filmmaker based in London UK. He uses narrative storytelling to produce investigative and observational films. He aims to discover, understand and communicate ideas that are given less attention than they deserve. Previous films include 97% Owned: How is Money Created and Princes of the Yen: Central Banks and the Transformation of the Economy.

Jason SharmanPROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSis the Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge. Sharman’s research interests range from the study of international corruption, money laundering and tax havens, to the global politics of the early modern world.