Weil on Finance: Sheldon Adelson’s Taxes

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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Howdy, View fans. Here's a look at my morning reading today.

Why pay taxes when Congress makes it so easy to avoid them?

Zachary Mider of Bloomberg News has a fantastic article about Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., who is worth more than $30 billion. The gist: "By shuffling his company stock in and out of more than 30 trusts, he's given at least $7.9 billion to his heirs while legally avoiding about $2.8 billion in U.S. gift taxes since 2010, according to calculations based on data in Adelson's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings." Hundreds of executives have used the technique, which may have cost the federal government more than $100 billion since 2000.

Europe's plans for a true banking union look stuck again

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told a European Parliament committee that current proposals for deciding how to wind down ailing banks are too complicated. Then again, what did he expect? Everything about the European Union is complicated -- especially the idea that a country such as Germany would ever let a handful of ECB regulators someday make the call on whether one of its national-champion banks should live or die. A lot of governments want to make sure the ECB doesn't get to make these decisions single-handedly. Trouble is, that defeats the point of having a single resolution mechanism for failed banks. The first link takes you to Draghi's speech. "We should not create a single resolution mechanism that is single in name only," he said. "In this respect, I am concerned that decision-making may become overly complex and financing arrangements may not be adequate." Also see the Financial Times's take on this subject from the day before: "The latest proposals could see up to 126 people being consulted on how to wind up a bank, even though agreement might need to be reached over the course of a weekend while financial markets are closed."

Matt Taibbi on news reports of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s latest Justice Department deal

This one reportedly is for $2 billion and would include a deferred-prosecution agreement. Taibbi isn't impressed. (I don't know anyone else who is, either.) He calls the deal disturbing and writes: "It underscores the increasingly obvious fact that the federal government is not interested in getting to the bottom of our financial corruption problem. They seem more to be treating bank malfeasance as a PR issue for the American financial markets that has to be managed away, instead of a corruption problem to be thoroughly investigated and fixed."

" Follow the money " is so yesteryear

Here's a good piece about politics and money by Lee Aitken of the Atlantic, who writes that "a patchwork of vague and lax campaign-finance regulations mean hundreds of millions of dollars changed hands in 2012 with no one tracking them." Follow the money? There's simply no way.

Ever tasted year-old egg nog before?

Seems gross, but Tan Vinh of the Seattle Times says it's yummy.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net