Techlash: How big tech corporations exercise business power and escape democratic control

Techlash scrabble

Techlash: How big tech corporations exercise business power and escape democratic control

Tuesday, 8 March 2022 - 5:00pm
ESC Seminar Room and Zoom
Aidan Regan (University College Dublin)
Tim Vlandas (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Tim Vlandas (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Marek Naczyk (University of Oxford)
European Studies Seminar


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It is estimated that up to $900 billion is lost to corporate tax avoidance every year. This amounts to almost 40 percent of the global profits of multinationals. These profits are dominated by the big tech MAAFiA group - Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet. A small number of corporate tax centres in Europe are central to their profit-shifting and wealth-protecting strategies: Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. We know a lot about the economics of tax avoidance. But from a political science perspective two key questions remain unanswered: Who exactly are the legal accounting and business finance professionals that create these global tax structures? How exactly are they used by big tech groups to protect their profits and avoid tax? This project answers these questions in three steps. First, Regan maps the global corporate structure of the big tech empire as a hierarchical wealth chain. Second, he follows the money within these global wealth chains to explain the role of intellectual property and intangible capital assets in tax avoidance strategies. Third, he identifies the legal architects that code the intellectual property for the purpose of wealth creation and profit-shifting. Finally, the research is synthesised into a new theoretical framework to explain how big tech multinationals exercise legal-business power in contemporary global digital capitalism and escape democratic control.

Aidan Regan is an Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin (UCD), and Director of UCD's Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in the New Political Economy of Europe. Prior to UCD, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Germany (MPIfG), and a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute (EUI) in Italy. He completed his PhD in Public Policy at the College of Social Science in UCD. During this time he also worked as a researcher at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), at the University of Amsterdam. His research is focused on the comparative political economy of Europe. In particular, he focuses on the comparative politics of the eurozone, labour relations, and housing markets. More recently his research has focused on the comparative political economy of growth models, with a particular focus on foreign direct investment, multinational tax avoidance, wealth and income inequality.  He is also interested in the comparative politics of party competition, voter behaviour, left populism and the determinants of left-right voter positions.

Marek Naczyk is Associate Professor in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford Department of Social Policy and Intervention. He is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris and received his DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford in 2013. He is also a research associate at the Centre d'etudes europeennes, Sciences Po Paris. His current research projects focus on areas including the role of the financial services industry in the diffusion of pension privatisation in affluent democracies and in emerging economies; and the links between the rise of private pension funds and corporate governance reform.

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