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 MPIfG Books



Brooke Harrington
Capital without Borders
Wealth Managers and the One Percent

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016
381 pages
ISBN 978-0-6747-4380-9 | $ 29.95 | £ 23.95 | € 27.00




Abstract | Contents | Author | Reviews




How do the one percent hold on to their wealth? And how do they keep getting richer, despite financial crises and the myriad of taxes on income, capital gains, and inheritance? Capital without Borders takes a novel approach to these questions by looking at professionals who specialize in protecting the fortunes of the world’s richest people: wealth managers. Brooke Harrington spent nearly eight years studying this little-known group – including two years training to become a wealth manager herself. She then "followed the money" to the eighteen most popular tax havens in the world, interviewing practitioners to understand how they helped their high-net-worth clients avoid taxes, creditors, and disgruntled heirs – all while staying just within the letter of the law.
Capital without Borders reveals how wealth managers use offshore banks, shell corporations, and trusts to shield billions in private wealth not only from taxation but from all manner of legal obligations. And it shows how practitioners justify their work, despite evidence that it erodes government authority and contributes to global inequality.
Harrington's research offers the first glimpse into the tactics and mentality of a secretive profession that controls astonishingly large flows of capital around the world. Based on sixty-five practitioner interviews – conducted in the traditional financial centers of Europe and the Americas as well as the up-and-coming tax havens of Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific – Capital without Borders gives voice for the first time to an elite that has worked quietly and unobtrusively to enrich the one percent.



1.  Introduction
2.  Wealth Management as a Profession
3.  Client Relations
4.  Tactics and Techniques of Wealth Management
5.  Wealth Management and Inequality
6.  Wealth Management and the State
7.  Conclusion



Brooke Harrington is Associate Professor of Sociology at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.



"Harrington advises governments seeking to address inequality to focus not only on the rich but also on the professionals who help them game the system."
Richard Cooper, Foreign Affairs
"[A] valuable new book… What makes Harrington's book unusual is that she chose instead to investigate the wealth management industry itself. There were no short cuts to doing so. Harrington went undercover as a trainee wealth manager for two years, living and breathing the profession. The result is an insight unlike any other into how wealth management works … One of the many merits of Brooke Harrington's study, therefore, is how it shows that the wealth management industry is a far larger and more integral component of the modern financial system than a focus on the celebrity-saturated case of the Panama Papers might suggest."
Felix Martin, New Statesman
"Brooke Harrington's overhaul of the One Percent, Capital Without Borders, couldn't arrive at a better time ... Capital Without Borders is an unparalleled exploration of an especially darkened corner of world finance ... Harrington's commentary is a magnifying glass held towards those who are gaining opportunities at the expense of those losing them ... Capital Without Borders gives a clear picture as to how the world’s wealthiest people live in a parallel reality to the rest of the world: one out of reach of laws and regulation on a global scale ... Capital Without Borders is a vital text for the modern age and a must-read for anyone looking towards a more egalitarian economic future."
Matthew Fay, PopMatters
"Brooke Harrington's study of wealth management is one of those rare books where you just have to stand back in awe and wonder at the author's achievement. In this intensely readable study, she offers a first-ever scholarly insight into a profession that was almost unknown a little over two decades ago … Harrington offers profound insights into the world of the professional people who dedicate their lives to meeting the perceived needs of the world's ultra-wealthy. And, as she makes clear, the most apparently compelling of those needs is to avoid the rule of law ... Don't doubt the importance of this book’s messages: this is a significant and valuable case study at the current frontier of political economy."
Richard J. Murphy, Times Higher Education
"[Harrington] lifts the veil of the wealth management profession ... A useful volume for tax policymakers and tax inspectors, the book is also timely: the leak of documents from Panama-based law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca – known as the Panama papers – led the G20 to improve transparency and exchange of information to stop tax evasion and avoidance by offshore financial centers."
Kiyoshi Nakayama, Finance and Development
"An edifying snapshot of a brave new world of capitalist impunity."
Chris Lehmann, In These Times
"Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent is an innovative approach to addressing a problem that is even more pressing than income inequality – wealth inequality ... The book is rich in fascinating detail, from the historical roots of wealth management to a description of a state system that might be called the ‘parasitic twin’ of the Westphalian model. Capital without Borders is a book that everyone who cares about fairness, the rule of law, and equal opportunity should read. Even if, or perhaps especially if, you're in the 'one percent.'"
Brenda Jubin, ValueWalk
"Beautifully written, this book opens a window into the fascinating world of wealth managers for the world's super-rich. I know of no other book even remotely like it."
John L. Campbell, Dartmouth College
"Brooke Harrington shines a light into the shadowy and little-understood subject of wealth management. Using in-depth interviews and participant observations, she reviews the tools of the trade of financial advisors and shows the implications for economic inequality, political power, and societal organization. This is an important book on a pivotal profession for those concerned about how the top one percent make and keep their money."
Darrell West, The Brookings Institution

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