• American Kleptocracy

  • How the U.S. Created the World's Greatest Money Laundering Scheme in History
  • By: Casey Michel
  • Narrated by: Joe Dwyer
  • Length: 9 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (105 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A remarkable debut by one of America's premier young reporters on financial corruption, American Kleptocracy offers the first explosive investigation into how the United States of America built the largest illicit offshore finance system the world has ever known.

"An indefatigable young American journalist who has virtually cornered the international kleptocracy beat on the US end of the black aquifer." (The Los Angeles Review of Books

For years, one country has acted as the greatest offshore haven in the world, attracting hundreds of billions of dollars, and potentially more, in illicit finance tied directly to corrupt regimes, extremist networks, and the worst the world has to offer. But it hasn’t been the sleepy, sand-splattered Caribbean islands, or even traditional financial secrecy havens like Switzerland or Panama, that have come to dominate the offshoring world. Instead, the country profiting the most from modern offshoring also happens to be the one that still claims to be the moral leader of the free world, and the one that claims to be leading the fight against the crooked and the corrupt: the United States of America. 

From anonymous shell companies and legal inventions like “perpetual trusts” to public relations and lobbying shops willing to do anything they can to camouflage the source of the dirty money, the United States’ transformation into the center of global offshoring is complete. And while Donald Trump presented, in many ways, the ultimate culmination of the US’s descent, the country’s trajectory has been decades in the making. 

American Kleptocracy will examine just how the United States’ implosion into a center of global offshoring took place: how states like Delaware and Nevada perfected the art of the anonymous shell company, and how post-9/11 reformers watched their success usher in a new flood of illicit finance directly into the US; how African despots and post-Soviet oligarchs came to dominate American coastlines, American industries, and entire cities and small towns across the American Midwest; how Nazi-era lobbyists birthed an entire industry of spin-men whitewashing trans-national crooks and despots, and how dirty money has now begun infiltrating America's universities and think tanks and cultural centers; and how those on the front-line are trying to restore America's legacy of anti-corruption leadership - and finally end this reign of American kleptocracy. 

It will also look at how Trump’s presidency accelerated all of the trends already on hand - and how the Biden administration can, and should, act on this inheritance. 

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press

©2021 Casey Michel (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"Casey Michel cuts through the spin, to reveal the inner workings of the American economy. His writing has shown again and again the subterfuges and secrecy at the heart of how money moves through the financial system, and does it with panache, wit, and a blessed aversion to jargon. I always read his work, and can't wait to read this one." (Oliver Bullough, author of the international best seller Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World)

"Casey is the foremost journalistic voice in the fight against kleptocracy. No other individual is so consistently on the case and interested in both the actors and the possible policy responses. His knowledge of the existential danger posed by kleptocracy is bar none, and we rely on his work like no one else to inform policy." (Paul Massaro, congressional policy advisor, US Helsinki Commission)

What listeners say about American Kleptocracy

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Brilliant, timely, a cautionary tale

I'm a public policy student focusing on natl security policy, especially anticorruption/anti-money laundering laws. I eagerly anticipated this book for months. The author does a great job making these issues understandable and demonstrating why regular people should care about this issue, like rising housing prices that result from money laundering via luxury real estate, that render entire cities totally unaffordable for average citizens. I hope lots of people will read this book and realize that however much in America, and the West generally, believe in our commitment to global democracy promotion, that over the past 30 years, a handful of Western enablers in a number of industries including real estate, lobbying, finance, & the practice of law have betrayed those democracy promotion efforts by going into places like Russia and China and helping kleptocratic regimes loot their nations and hide the $ abroad, including here in the US. In order to strengthen democracy at home and abroad, to revive entire cities slowly destroyed by this dirty $ from Cleveland to Kviv, America & her allies will need to face head-on this $20Trillion problem, by passing new AML and antikleptocracy legislation that would allow us to return the looted & laundered funds to the dozens of natl economies from which it was stolen. The indisputable takeaway, is that white collar crime IS NOT VICTIMLESS, that despite the decades of lax sentencing for such crimes, it can be the most societally damaging type of crime. Especially if you're not a subject matter expert, you should read this book. Once you do, you'll never be able to "unsee" the grave damage to societies, our own and the societies from which the money was stolen. The author does a great job too, with the geographical completeness of the damage of dirty $ to the USA. Even as someone who studies this stuff all the time, til I read this book, I thought that the dirty $ damage was mostly confined to the likes of Manhattan and Miami. Not so! Rural and small town America, the Rust Belt have been damaged by this dirty $ most of all. In a time of much division, Americans must come together to force our government to clean up this problem in all 50 states. The truth is that whether you're rural or urban, left or right wing, young or old, no matter what you do for a living, we are all getting harmed by the dirty, looted $ that's poured into the USA over the past 30-40 years. I strongly urge all to read this and get involved in advocacy in favor of legislative/regulatory reform. We owe it to ourselves and the entire foreign countries that have been plundered in the ways described in American Kleptocracy!

10 people found this helpful

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Partisan Political Propaganda

I really struggled to finish this book. By the time it I was about 60% through I could tell it wasn't any information that left leaning or at least establishment news didn't already feed us at some point. Only focused on a handful of pre-ordained "bad guys" that are safe to talk about in today's environment. No mention in CIA laundering, Clinton deregulation, the Clinton Foundations role with despots and dictators, private equity money laundering, in depth military kleptocracy, etc. Just a few bad guys and some more Russiagate and Trump derangement syndrome. Now don't get me wrong if you have been watching Fox news then some of Trump's conflicts of interest might not be known.

I found that the writing was a bit juvenile and not developed very well. It's as if Michel just elaborated his accumulated news articles, put them in different chapters, and sent it to his editor. I would have liked if he actually did some some more research. It felt vary partisan which definitely did not help with me liking this book. Anyone with two eyes and a brain knows that both parties are involved with every problem we are encountering in the US republic today.

Interesting book if you are clueless to how the American system works. Michel provides good details about shell companies and how America is the biggest non-transparent financial capital. But I was hoping to learn some more. Joe Dwyer did well.

4 people found this helpful

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gripping telling of an important invisible story

America is a playground for the world's greediest thieves. They steal from the people they are entrusted to lead plundering their own countries. Then, to use their Ill gotten wealth they plunder the United States. Worse, American governments help them do it. We are all victims of kleptocracy and it's time we knew about it.

American Kleptocracy tells this complex story in an engaging and relatively easy listen.

Listeners may start looking at the expensive empty homes in their cities, the grand investments that go nowhere, factories that are bought with great promise then slide into disrepair, or the names on the side of school buildings and ask "where did that money come from and why is it not doing anything?"

Whence is the money!?!?

Excellent book. highly recommended for anyone into true crime, nonfiction, economics, foreign policy, or wants to know what really happened to their town.

3 people found this helpful

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Political Tripe

The first chapter starts with stories from 2011 and then immediately turns around and blames it on a president who took office SIX YEARS later.

3 people found this helpful

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Frightening and immensely useful

Talk about hiding in plain sight just below the surface.
World wide warning. Second greatest threat to any democracy other than voter suppression. Trump is so corrupt and dangerous we will never know the amount of damage he has caused.

1 person found this helpful

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Essential reading for protecting democracy

This book reveals a problem that has been hidden from too many in America for years. We’ve had a system that has allowed leaders of corrupt foreign nations to steal from their own people, launder their dirty money here, and in the process destroy American cities, harm workers, drive up real estate prices, threaten national security, destabilize world economies… Kleptocracy is well explained in the book: what it is and why it’s a problem. It goes on to outline positive steps that have been taken to tackle the problem in the U.S., and what more needs to be done. All of this information is delivered using colorful real-life characters who have used and abused the system as examples. Every elected official should read this book!

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"LIBERAL DEMOCRACY" The new term for socialism

The first part of the book was great. Great history and mechanics behind money laundering.

Then...

The socialist comes out. The author's ultimate call for all privacy rights is a total lie. The author's disdain for capitalism becomes clear. The author's complete jack booted socialist communist becomes clear.

Having fought crime most of my life in one capacity or another, the solution to our woes is not treating everyone like criminals.

Grow up.

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Follow the money…

That was a real eye opener- almost sad to think we (American voters) are complicit in enabling all these things to transpire- and further amazing to think how many Americans just love the Trump organization- and how he ‘drained the swamp’ along with trying to decide if I’ve been alive for any positive presidents who truly had moral or ethical principles? Republicans/Democrats can’t seem to decide which is worse. Thank you for your research- and publishing this information. Wow, just, wow!

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American Kleptocracy

This is a very important book. It is so relevant helping everyday people like me have a far better understanding of how dirty money has been lawfully laundered!! Because of the current situation with Russia and Ukraine,we hear the word oligarchy and how oligarchs and their money has become part of the focus on sanctions. A clear and concise reporting of the subject.

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Reality Strikes

This is an essential book for anyone seeking to understand politics of today's America. The book covers things we know to be true, but the extent of the corruption if America is surprising and terrifying. Though both parties play to some extent, this result is the outcome of the breaking of American government by the GOP. Regulating business and reigning in broken state governments is vital. Well told tale with examples and cases to balance policy discussions.

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  • Emma Jane Webster
  • 01-23-22

fascinating and infuriating

Great narration and an easy listen. Some fascinating insight - and infuriating!
Worth the wait.

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  • Sports fan PL
  • 01-05-22

Illuminating insight - Great explainer

Excellent. We've all seen the headlines but sometimes struggle to connect the dots - This does that brilliantly. The last few chapters are brilliantly crafted & a stark warning!