Panama Papers Retrospective: Three Years Later

Just over three years ago, we got the analytics shock of our lives when we logged into Google Analytics on an early April morning to check out our website traffic for the previous week. Without warning, visitors to the Nuix website had increased nearly ten-fold, making jaws drop and causing a bit of a stir.

Was it a denial of service attack? The volume wasn’t that high, but we still had cause for concern. After all, the website was still operational and there was nothing else to really indicate an attack.

After a little investigation, we found the source of all the visitors—a piece of investigative journalism coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) dubbed the Panama Papers. Very few people in the company even knew ICIJ was using our software to index and search the information at the time, and nobody knew the extent of the leaked data its journalists were analyzing, nor the far-reaching impact it would have.

Yet, there it was, allegations of tax havens and shadow corporations used by the world’s elite to save themselves money, privacy, and even embarrassment. And Nuix was the software that made much of its research possible.



After a few months of interviews, press, and opinion, the story died down, at least from our perspective. There was a revival last year with a documentary written and directed by Alex Winter, but the pulse-pounding spikes in web traffic to Nuix were a thing of the past.

While it was an interesting story, I don’t think anyone really grasped the tangible impact that the story would have. Recently, ICIJ posted a story on that very topic, one that claims the Panama Papers research helped governments recoup more than $1.2 billion in fines and back taxes.

That number, according to the story, is likely an understatement due to disclosure limitations from many countries. Countries like Poland and South Korea operate in secret and were unwilling to put a number on recovered amounts. With a floor of $1.2 billion, it’s enough to know that there was a very real, meaningful outcome from the journalists’ work on the Panama Papers.



For Nuix, the Panama Papers serves as a poignant reminder that our software helps bring meaning to information that would pose an insurmountable challenge to make any sense out of manually. The Panama Papers consisted of 11.5 million leaked files—while considered a modest data set by some standards, imagine trying to piece the context of those files together without powerful technology to help.