HARVARD INEQUALITY & SOCIAL POLICY SEMINAR SERIES
KIMBERLY KAY HOANG
Associate Professor of Sociology and the College and Director of Global Studies
University of Chicago
PLAYING IN THE GRAY:
OFFSHORING AND FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN FRONTIER MARKETS
Playing in the Gray is a comparative study of how global elites capitalize on risky frontier markets. The book traces the flow of capital from offshore funds in places like the Cayman Islands, Samoa, and Panama to special-purpose vehicles or holding companies in Singapore and Hong Kong, before they were invested in risky markets onshore in Vietnam and Myanmar.
Innovating ethnographic methods, I traveled over 350,000 miles to interview over 300 financial professionals including: private wealth managers, fund managers, chairpeople, local entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, lawyers, bankers, auditors, and company secretaries. To theorize the process of playing in the gray the goal of this book is three-fold: (1) to uncover the structure, which I refer to as spiderweb capitalism, (2) to examine the people who make and move money around the world and (3) to reveal their strategies for moving money through offshore vehicles and the moral dilemmas they confront on the ground in frontier markets by having to play in the gray.
The book uncovers the complex networks created by financial professionals who move money across borders, shift legal geographies through multi-country tax structures, forge interpersonal ties with political elites, and make money out of playing in legal, financial, and political gray zones.