How to hide it: inside the secret world of wealth managers

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September 21 2016

The Pritzker family is one of the wealthiest in the United States. Their assets, which amount to $15bn, are held in 60 companies and 2,500 trusts, using structures and strategies that Forbes magazine – normally a cheerleader for wealthy elites – describes with an unusual hint of moral distaste as “shadowy … constructed to discourage outside inquiry – and brilliantly exploitative of loopholes in the tax code.”

This complex asset-holding structure was created not by the Pritzker family itself but by its lawyers, accountants, tax specialists and investment advisers. In this respect, the Pritzkers are no different to tens of thousands of super-rich families and individuals worldwide, who use the services of wealth managers. These professionals not only shelter wealth from taxation but, in the words of one academic paper, serve to “obscure concentrations of economic power”, using vehicles that make it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the true owners of wealth.