Veil thrown over Argentina's commercial registry
Argentina’s Inspección General de Justicia (IGJ), which is in charge (among other things) of the Commercial Registry, has been under severe criticism for obstructing, delaying and even denying requests for public information. Violating relevant laws and regulations on access to information, and basing its case on an (unrelated) law to protect personal data, the IGJ has issued internal regulations requiring those requesting information contained in the Commercial Registry to demonstrate a “legitimate interest” in the information.
The blocking of information by the IGJ has been getting worse in recent years, as news organisations and opposition politicians have demanded information from the Public Registry with regard to companies related to Vice-President Amado Boudou, and to businessman Lazaro Baez, allegedly linked to President Kirchner.
In 2012 National Congress Member Gil Lavedra, after being denied access to the Commercial Registry, filed a summary proceeding (“amparo”) to obtain a court order to access information on Boudou’s companies from the Registry. After a lower Court refused, the Federal Court of Appeals in 2013 finally issued the order, reaffirming that there is no need to invoke or prove a “legitimate interest” to access information from the Registry. This court order, however, applies only to this particular case.
Against this background, an informal academic meeting took place last August 27th at the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires, to discuss the Public Information and the IGJ. Unknown to the panelists, however, the current Head of the IGJ, Luis Rodolfo Tailhade, was present. He is a member of La Campora, the youth and political movement related to Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (her son, Maximo Kirchner, chairs the movement). Contrary to the panelists’ view, Mr. Tailhade said that while the IGJ would comply with any court order, he personally agreed with existing IGJ’s internal regulations which demand a legitimate interest. In his opinion, the IGJ already takes care of supervising companies - and, he added, most companies wouldn’t want just anyone looking into their directors’ list of names or company balance sheets.
He was reminded that the very purpose of a “public” registry is to provide information to the public: that is, everyone. This includes not only banks, creditors and businessmen who need to look at a company’s balance sheet to assess its solvency and soundness, but also any regular citizen with regard to matters that relate to public officers and corruption, especially if the Vice-President of the country might be involved. However, many people at the meeting thanked him for attending and speaking openly, which is very unusual for a public officer in the present times.
Further background to this is available from Markus Meinzer in 2005, here.