Cayman Islands officials acted wisely when they hired Baker Botts law firm partner Jeff Munk to represent our country’s interests in Washington, D.C.
Especially now, as the U.S. Congress prepares for a contentious debate about tax reform, it is imperative that Cayman ensures American policymakers have accurate information and meaningful context about our financial services sector and its critical role in the U.S. and global economy.
Despite our tiny islands’ supersized position as one of the world’s largest international financial centers, historically Cayman’s leaders have been seemingly hesitant to, or perhaps operationally incapable of, claiming a seat at important discussion tables, be they in the halls of the U.S. Congress, the inner sanctums of the U.K. Parliament or, certainly, at the major media houses, particularly in Washington, New York and London.
As a tax-neutral offshore jurisdiction, Cayman has for too long served as a convenient scapegoat for other countries’ politicians and regulatory over-reachers who — deliberately or out of ignorance — mischaracterize Cayman as a “sunny place for shady people.”
The reality is, as outlined in a three-page “informational brief” being circulated by Mr. Munk, that Cayman is a well-known, well-documented and highly regarded financial center that leads the way in transparency, effective regulation, and cooperation with all first-world taxing regimes, including the United States.
The selection of the eminently knowledgeable, highly respected and well-connected Mr. Munk appears to be an excellent move by Cayman’s Ministry of Financial Services.
Mr. Munk’s law firm, Baker Botts, is a prestigious international institution with 725 attorneys in offices in key jurisdictions around the world. As evidence of its influence, look no further than senior partner James A. Baker III, whose resume includes service as U.S. Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State, White House Chief of Staff to two presidents (Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) and leader of presidential campaigns for three candidates (Reagan, Bush and Gerald Ford).
We have every reason to believe Mr. Munk will be effective in his endeavors. He is deeply familiar with financial services, in general, and Cayman, in particular. For years, he served as a lobbyist for Cayman law firm Maples and Calder, and they, too, gave him the highest grades (we checked).
Some Cayman residents may cast a critical eye on the $12,500 per month price tag attached to Mr. Munk’s services. They’re wrong. It is a small investment in the context of the continued health and well-being of our financial sector, which drives more than half of Cayman’s economic activity.
Mr. Munk’s impact should not, and must not, be measured by bureaucratic performance metrics (hours logged, reports generated, meetings conducted or attended).
Rather, his duty is to work diligently and consistently, behind the scenes, to ensure that key decision-makers in D.C. have an accurate understanding of and appreciation for Cayman’s economy, in the context of U.S. policy, with one goal being a shift away from inaccurate and hurtful rhetoric that unfairly maligns our territory.
In terms of Mr. Munk’s fee, we would be wise to recall an old saying (popular in both Western and legal circles): Gunfighters don’t charge by the bullet.