“Finally, I just took her hand and said, ‘Oprah, look at me, right now. You’d better wake up, girl, and wake up now. It is really happening. You’d better get over it and get in the game, or these good ol’ boys are going to hand you your ass on a platter.’”
– Dr. Phil McGraw
The above conversation between “Dr. Phil” and Oprah Winfrey took place in 1998 in Amarillo, Texas, where the talk show queen had arrived to defend herself against a $100 million lawsuit filed by Texas cattlemen who alleged she had damaged the Texas beef industry by her remarks during a television segment relating to mad cow disease.
Ms. Winfrey breezed into Texas cattle country on a Gulfstream jet, with an entourage of staff and two cocker spaniels. The scene soon became a media circus, fueled by celebrities (including John Travolta, Patrick Swayze and Celine Dion) who descended on the small Texas Panhandle town to offer their support.
Ms. Winfrey, acting more like a diva than a defendant, appeared bored and offended that someone of her status should have to endure the complaints of a group of crude cowboys. Dr. Phil McGraw, a psychologist whose firm had been hired to help in jury selection, knew that wealthy Texas cattlemen were nobody to mess with, nor would they be the least impressed or intimidated by a “big city” talk-show host like Ms. Winfrey.
Dr. Phil, who did not know Ms. Winfrey, did know she was in for the fight of her life – and that she was not up for it. He took it upon himself to clear up her misperceptions and toughen her up for trial. Against significant odds, Ms. Winfrey won the case. Dr. Phil became a regular guest on “Oprah” before moving on to host his own enormously popular eponymous daytime television show.
What does this have to do with the release of 13.4 million stolen documents from the Appleby law firm, known collectively as the “Paradise Papers?” Precisely this: As the Cayman Islands financial sector faces a perhaps existential threat from European regulators, left-leaning politicians, and increasingly irresponsible journalists, our country’s response has been underwhelming, if not blasé. It resembles Oprah in Amarillo – pre-Dr. Phil.
There is one notable exception: prominent attorney Anthony Travers, chairman of Cayman’s stock exchange.
Think of Mr. Travers as Cayman’s “Dr. Phil” or, perhaps even more apropos, as “Rocky.”
In his earlier days, Mr. Travers was an amateur boxer, when he learned to take a punch and, more importantly, to throw one. Lately, he’s been throwing many of them in the direction of ill-informed interviewers foolish enough to get into the ring with him on the subject of Cayman’s role in offshore finance – a topic most journalists know virtually NOTHING about and, frankly, Mr. Travers knows nearly EVERYTHING about. (He’s written or been consulted on much of the legislation that underpins Cayman’s financial sector).
Addressing the matter in the Legislative Assembly, Cayman’s Minister of Financial Services Tara Rivers offered the following assurance: “The reporting on the Paradise Papers does not provide any evidence of wrongdoing. The long-standing position of the Cayman Islands is that the effective implementation of global regulatory standards helps to enhance the socioeconomic contribution of the financial service industry.”
At the same time, Mr. Travers was bluntly telling the BBC the Paradise Papers were “fake news” and the journalists who trafficked in the stolen documents “should be in prison.” (Mr. Travers may have won a pugilistic trophy or two, but it’s unlikely he has ever held the title of “Mr. Congeniality.”)
Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., expressed a similar view: “With the latest leak of international financial records comes evidence of an unambiguous crime that won’t be investigated – the theft of the papers themselves from Appleby, a global law firm based in Bermuda.”
It is highly likely that Cayman laws protecting the privacy and confidentiality of lawful financial transactions have been violated. We would encourage Attorney General Samuel Bulgin to pursue vigorously all possible prosecutions – not only for the sake of those who have been victimized but also to protect the future of offshore finance in these islands.