Since the early 20th century, Panama has with the revenues from the canal built the largest Regional Financial Center (IFC) in Central America, with consolidated assets being more than three times that of Panama's GDP. The banking sector employs more than 24,000 people directly. Financial intermediation contributed 9.3 percent of GDP. Stability has been a key strength of Panama's financial sector, which has benefited from the country's favorable economic and business climate. Banking institutions report sound growth and solid financial earnings. The banking supervisory regime is largely compliant with the Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision. As a regional financial center, Panama exports some banking services, mainly to Latin America, and plays an important role in the country's economy. However, Panama still cannot compare to the position held by Hong Kong or Singapore as financial centers in Asia.
In 2015, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) was contacted by an anonymous source calling him or herself "John Doe," who offered to leak the documents. Doe did not demand any financial compensation in return, according to the SZ. The total volume of data comes to about 2.76 terabytes, making it the biggest data leak in history. The data pertains to the period spanning from the 1970s to the spring of 2016.
President Barack Obama addressed the overseas shell companies listed by the leak in a press conference: "It's not that they're breaking the laws," he said, "it's that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they've got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by." Although no leader in the US was mentioned in the Panama Papers, Obama said that "Frankly, folks in America are taking advantage of the same stuff".