When news broke regarding the Panama Papers—millions of leaked documents exposing tactics used by powerful people to conceal wealth or avoid taxes—NPR's 'The World' sought the expertise of California Western School of Law Associate Professor James Cooper to explain the leak's significance.
Cooper, a renowned international law scholar specializing in Latin American legal systems, was not at all surprised. "Panama has for a very long time been the site of much corruption, political intrigue, and financial exchange," he explains. "There is a reason the canal was built there."
According to Cooper, there is a history of financial corruption in the country. "While ruling Panama, Manuel Noriega ran it as an illicit financial hub, laundering money for cartels and others," he says. "There are several factors that make financial corruption possible in Latin America—weak rule of law, heavy political influence in the judicial branch, and weak governing institutions—as well as a culture of looking the other way."
Ties to Latin America
For decades, California Western has developed bonds with important multilateral political institutions in the Western Hemisphere. The law school plays a leading role in working with countries in the Americas to create new legal systems via Proyecto ACCESO—a legal reform program that has trained thousands of judges, prosecutors, and other officials on the workings of the U.S. justice system. California Western also offers an online LL.M. degree program for Spanish-speaking attorneys, the Chile Summer Program, and the American Legal Studies and Exchange - Brazil.