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Thor Halvorssen a thorn in the side of North Korea

Thor is a powerful name, and Thor Halvorssen is a powerful man—and he uses his power for good.

Thor runs a human rights organization, based in New York, which helps human rights campaigners from third world countries promote their causes. He doesn’t see much use in protesting against the United States government when other countries routinely engage in practices that are so much worse.11)

Indeed, Thor should know. He was raised in Caracas, Venezuela. His father was a high-ranking finance official in the government, but it wasn’t long before Thor saw his father thrown in jail after he tried to make high-level government corruption public. His mother, too, suffered for her beliefs. She was once shot and wounded as she protested the increasingly authoritarian government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Today, Thor organizes a yearly Human Rights event, perhaps the biggest in the world. It’s called the Human Rights Forum and takes place once a year in Oslo, Norway, a country to which Thor traces his roots. His grandfather was a Norwegian diplomat who stood up to the Nazis and lived in exile in South America. Thor invites dissidents and Human Rights campaigners from all over the world to the Forum. Also in attendance are rich philanthropists who are receptive to helping underfunded causes.

Aside from improving Human Rights all over the world, Halvorssen is also on a quest to stay young. He routinely injects himself with Human Growth Hormone and takes a handful of pills a day, all to give him bursts of energy.

It appears to be working, as he’s got bursts of energy in spades. He runs a Hollywood production company that helps produce Human Rights conscious films. He’s also a perpetual thorn in the side of North Korea.

The country, known as the Hermit Kingdom, especially draws Halvorssen’s ire. It’s been closed off to the outside world for the better part of 70 years, and now possesses a nuclear arsenal. All this, while its citizenry lives in awful conditions, many even dying of starvation. Halvorssen organizes hackathons against the North Korean regime and smuggles in contraband.

Geoffrey Cone and New Zealand’s Tax Transparency

 

Recently, there were some media reports claiming that New Zealand was a tax haven and about the increase in foreign trusts. Lawyer Geoffrey Cone gave a reply on the article by debunking the myth that NZ is a tax haven. Mr. Cone stated that this was incorrect and gave several facts to argue out his case. He stated that New Zealand has never and will never appear on the list of tax havens in the world maintained by OECD. Cone explained that New Zealand does not lack transparency on matters tax and does not have any procedures or laws that inhibit exchange of information with governments that request for such information.

 

How does New Zealand demonstrate its Leadership in Tax Transparency?

New Zealand was among the first countries that appeared on the white list of OECD for the full implementation of the 2002 OECD Model Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters. This agreement is meant to support the free exchange of information between governments on tax matters. New Zealand has also demonstrated its leadership in as far as tax transparency is concerned on its handling of foreign trusts. There are various requirements that have been placed on the trustees that have all been geared towards helping other governments that need such relevant information.

 

Introduction of New Rules

Michael Cullen introduced some new rules in this sector in 2006 after wide consultations. Under the new regime, a foreign trust resident trustee from NZ has to submit a Foreign Trust Disclosure form (IR607) as required by IRD, and to maintain financial and various records for tax purposes in New Zealand. These include trust deeds, details of settlements and distributions that ought to include the identity of the resident and their address. It should also contain the trust’s liabilities, assets and the money received and spent by a trustee. The records should be kept in New Zealand and must be in English language. Failure to keep them results in heavy penalties.

 

About Geoffrey Cone

Geoffrey Cone was awarded with LLB honors and a further post graduate diploma in tax and trust law from the University of Otago in New Zealand. He began practicing in Auckland before moving to Christchurch, where he made Partner and became the chair of the Partners in a top law firm. Mr. Cone used to practice in Commercial Litigation, and tax and trust advisory work. He made appearances in various courts that include the Privy Council. Having spent two years as a litigator in British West Indies, he went back to Auckland in 1997 and two years later established his own law firm. Cone Marshall Limited became the only law firm in New Zealand that specializes exclusively on international tax and trust planning as well as offering trust and trustee management services via its affiliated companies.

Read more at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10846049.

Securities Whistleblowers Now Have Powerful Allies

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is an agency of the United States federal government that holds the responsibility for enforcing federal securities laws. These laws include the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, The Securities Act of 1933, the Trust indenture Act of 1939, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and other statutes. It is commonly referred to as the Exchange Act today. In addition to the laws that have been on the books for many years, the SEC has had a bounty program in place for over 20 years reward whistleblowers monetarily for insider trading complaints and violations. Yet, despite even this monetary reward campaign the Commission found few applications from individuals with information about trading violations. It was assumed that this was because either the program was not recognized or possibly the program was not well designed.

Because of the lack of use of the whistleblower program, the Exchange initiated an Office of the whistleblower whose current chief is Sean McKessy. The office has 8 staff attorneys, paralegals, and a support specialist. The office was put together as a partial response to the almost complete financial collapse of the banking system in America in 2008 when it was discovered that many of the financial institutions and banks in America were blatantly breaking the law to make money while they literally stole money by the truckload from the public. The whistleblower program has completely altered this as SEC chair Mary Jo White has called the whistleblower program a game changer. To enhance this in the minds of security employees and to give them peace of mind in coming forward to report violations, Jordan Thomas and Labaton Sucharow former SEC insiders have wrote and developed the SEC Insider’s Guide to provide straight forward information, and key information to help SEC whistleblowers navigate the ins and outs of how the process works and the agencies involved and of course how to collect their money. Labaton Sucharow  also started the very first whistleblower advocate law firm in the country.

Under the rules of the program, it is important to note that the Security and Exchange Commission is required to pay 10-30% of financial sanctions collected as a result of a successfully completed enforcement action. This reward is available only if the sanctions exceed $1,000,000.00. However, if the threshold is met the whistleblower may also be eligible for additional money awards based on sanctions collected by other regulatory agencies. The law also prohibits retaliation by employers against any whistleblower. They may even report violations anonymously if represented by a SEC whistleblower attorney.

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