The world map has never looked so odd. A service called OpenCorporates has launched a website that shows America's top six banks and their exceedingly intricate and complex organization structure to highlight the lengths to which some corporations go to minimize their tax liabilities.
The website is designed to show each country or location on the map in proportion to the number of subsidiaries present there. For example, Goldman Sachs has over 1400 subsidiaries registered in the United States alone. In the Cayman Islands? 739. Thus, Cayman Islands show up to be about the size of the United States.
The website also highlights other financial giants such as JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley. OpenCorporates just launched this section of their site last week; most of their data on over 55 million companies in their database is in a less visual, family-tree style. Nevertheless, the wealth of information on the site continues to grow and is rather eye opening.
It's important to note that these complicated structures are entirely legal; they result in significant tax liability reductions because of the loopholes that the various nations' tax codes contain and the status of many of these countries as tax havens. As with many legal conundrums, the controversy usually revolves around whether people think it is morally sound. That is a debate for another blog. For now, check out OpenCorporates website and see for yourself how labyrinthine these corporations can become.