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

Hybrid event. To attend in person please register via Eventbrite: For online participation, register via Zoom.

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, I map the global corporate structure of the big tech empire as a hierarchical wealth chain. Second, I follow the money within these global wealth chains to explain the role of intellectual property and intangible capital assets in tax avoidance strategies. Third, I identify the legal architects that code the intellectual property for the purpose of wealth creation and profit-shifting. Finally, I synthesise the research into a new theoretical framework to explain how big tech multinationals exercise legal-business power in contemporary global digital capitalism and escape democratic control.