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We can start taking Trump seriously about ditching his business interests when he does these five things (Quartz)

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Even if Trump has the best of intentions, he will need to go beyond the bare-minimum legal and ethical standards to win over the skeptics.

“We really want to start this administration on a good footing, so that every time he makes a decision, every time he speaks to a foreign leader, every time he has a meeting people are not wondering whether he is putting his interest before the interests of the American people,” says Shruti Shah, vice president of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption NGO. Read more

Days after Trump spoke to Argentina’s president his stalled Buenos Aires tower project picked up steam (Quartz)

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TI-USA’s Shah:  President-elect Trump has been elected on the basis of ending the cronyism that exists in Washington, so he has to set a very high standard for himself—so that everybody, including the American people, feels that neither he, nor his businesses, nor his family are getting any preferential treatment.” Read more

Trump says law is on his side amid calls for him to distance from his business empire (McClatchy DC Bureau)

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Transparency International, which fights corruption globally, is adding its name to those calling on President-elect Donald Trump to divest himself of his businesses before he takes office, to avoid any conflicts of interest.

 

“The president-elect has an early and excellent opportunity to make good on his campaign promise to run a government that works for the people and not for the political class,” said Claudia Dumas, the president of Transparency International-USA.“It’s unprecedented in U.S. history for there to be a president with a global business empire, which is why we felt compelled to issue these recommendations,” said Shruti Shah, vice president of programs and operations. She noted there have been other world leaders with business conflicts “at the highest level” that ended poorly, including Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. Read more

Donald Trump’s Conflicts Of Interest Are A Swamp Unto Themselves (Huffington Post)

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With business holdings that span the globe, President-elect Donald Trump will take office next year with unprecedented conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. Thus far, he has done almost nothing to address this issue.

“Democracy is best served when elected officials are wholly committed to advancing public interest,” said Shruti Shah, vice president for programs and operations at the U.S. branch of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization.

“It is important to avoid both actual and perceived conflicts of interest,” Shah said. “This is a non-partisan principle.” Read more

 

LePage promised transparency, but multimillion-dollar contract awards remain in the shadows (Bangor Daily News)

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Each year, Maine state government uses millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase thousands of goods and services from outside organizations. The conversation about contracting transparency is relevant now because the LePage administration has switched up longstanding contracts and outsourced existing government services, often without extensive explanation.

“Contract publication can help journalists and citizen watchdog groups to monitor decisions and ensure that decision makers are held accountable,” said Shruti Shah, vice president of programs and operations for the advocacy group Transparency International-USA. Read more

NYC’s dirty money files (The Real Deal: New York Real Estate News)

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Illicit money is increasingly being stashed in U.S. commercial real estate. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) identified 9,528 suspicious commercial real estate transactions in the U.S. in a 10-year period starting in 1996.

“Many of the larger real estate companies will say, ‘Well, we don’t do any cash transactions, and the big banks are doing the due diligence, so we don’t have any obligation,’ ” said Shruti Shah, a vice president at anticorruption nonprofit Transparency International-USA. “But for any anti-money-laundering system to function well in any country, you need multiple checks and balances. It’s not enough that financial institutions are required to do due diligence. Read more

 

With Kleptocrats Untouchable, America Goes Big on Another Strategy: Taking Their Stuff Instead (OCCRP)

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Increasing US attention to kleptocracy cases has galvanized other governments. In the 1MDB case, Singapore and Switzerland – both countries with a history of financial secrecy – appear to have worked closely with the US, freezing millions believed to be linked to the scam.

Shruti Shah, vice president of programs and operations at Transparency International in the US, notes the US still offers many dark channels allowing dirty money to move unseen. While it “would be even better… to prevent these assets from being stolen (in the first place),” she said, “we need to do something about intermediaries – bankers, lawyers and the real estate industry.” Read more

Will Congress Get Serious About U.S. Offshoring Loopholes? (Foreign Policy)

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The new Treasury rule requires banks to do yet more due diligence to unmask a company’s true owner at the time an account is set up. Banks will now be required to collect and verify the names of any person who owns more than 25 percent of a corporate entity, along with the identity of one “individual who controls” it.

 

Critics argue the measure doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t address existing bank accounts. Shruti Shah, the vice president of programs and operations for the U.S. branch of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization, argues that it also conflates the definition of ownership with management. “If nothing, what the Panama Papers proved is that some of these people are mere figureheads,” she said. Read more

Shah & Currinder – Is It a Gift or Is it A Bribe (Huffington Post Blog)

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In its McDonnell v. United States decision, a unanimous Supreme Court affirmed states’ right to regulate ” permissible scope of interactions between state officials and their constituents.” It is not the federal government’s role, according to the Court, to set standards of “good government for local and state officials.”

Gift rules that are riddled with loopholes and exceptions contribute to the perception—and sometimes the reality—of corruption. Whenever individuals, businesses, and organizations give gifts to elected officials, we should ask why. Read more

 

Shah and Grant: How to steal billions

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We need to take active steps to close the obvious loopholes in the U.S. legal framework and compliance practices, and shore up the international financial system that has allowed brazen money laundering to happen. Read more