Mossack Fonseca's Response To The Panama Papers Is A Crash Course In Exactly How Not To Do That
There's probably no rulebook on what to write your clients after more than 11 million internal documents detailing potentially illegal activity gets leaked to the press. That said, the Mossack Fonseca letter to its clientele, which was also leaked on Monday, gives you an idea of what not to say. Press around the world has been covering the Panama Papers, which detail the firm's role in maintaining offshore shell corporations used by the rich and powerful to evade taxes, launder money, and work their way around sanctions. I can only imagine that this awkward memo comes as a small consolation for effected clients.
For starters, the letter's dated "April 1, 2016" — imagine the consternation when clients realized that it was in fact not an April Fool's joke that Mossack Fonseca had "been subject to an unauthorized breach of our email server." Then there's this little gem explaining that the company, the world's fourth-largest offshore law firm, wasn't even aware of the extent of the problem:
At the moment, we are working with the help of outside consultants to determine the extent to which our system was accessed by unauthorized persons, what specific information those persons have obtained and the number of parties affected.
Well, it sure was a lot of information — the biggest leak ever. But at least they're kind of sorry! "We sincerely regret this event and have taken all necessary measures to prevent this from happening again," the announcement said. Nothing like preventing sensitive data from being stolen a second time ... except that now they'll have to work with the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian, the BBC, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to protect the files, given that they all have copies.
But, truly, not to worry — the clients are the priority. "Rest assured," the announcement continues, "that we accord the highest priority to the safety and confidentiality of your information." They have multiple layers of security — and they've even added a few more measures. So take it easy; this will never happen again.
This was not the company's only response. The Guardian also published a very long response from Mossack Fonseca's public relations director, Carlos Sousa. He claims that many of the incriminated figures are not and never have been clients of the firm. He also says the firm does its best to keep clients on the up-and-up. "We regret any misuse of our services and actively take steps to prevent it," Sousa wrote. And should the explanations not work, there's always threats:
It appears that you have had unauthorized access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company and have presented and interpreted them out of context. We trust that you are fully aware that using information/documentation unlawfully obtained is a crime, and we will not hesitate to pursue all available criminal and civil remedies.
I'm sure The Guardian can take it, but those poor, poor rich clients. They're having a rough week.