The Pandora Papers revealed that trusts in multiple U.S. states have been sheltering at least a billion dollars for offshore clients. South Dakota has emerged as arguably the most notorious with at least 81 such trusts which, The Washington Post reported, manage more than $360 billion in assets. More than 3.3 million pages of the Pandora Papers were leaked from Trident Trust, which also is responsible for many of the trusts in South Dakota. This comes hand in hand with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and former governor Dennis Daugaard’s initiatives to establish South Dakota as a “premier trust jurisdiction,” raising questions about potential undue influence Trident Trust may have had on trust law in South Dakota.

CREW has requested records on the Task Force on Trust Administration Review and Reform that these initiatives fall under, and any reports they provided to the governor. CREW also requested any communications between the task force and Trident Trust, task force records mentioning Trident Trust or the Pandora Papers, and all communications between the Task Force and Governor Kristi Noem.

Undue influence within the policymaking process is unfortunately not new, and it is of great public interest that any evidence that will reveal industry influence comes out. Given that two employees of Trident Trust are affiliated with the task force (the group’s General Manager is a member and a Senior Director is an “active contributor”), they are therefore in a position to make policy recommendations that might favorably affect their industry. Too often, industry lobbyists have a disproportionate sway over legislators and other policymakers through money or access—the public deserves to know just how much influence Trident Trust has had on trust policies, and whether Kristi Noem played a role in these efforts.

Records request

Header photo by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license.

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