Thursday, October 31, 2013

Welcoming the UK's decision on corporate transparency

Nov 1: Updated with comments from the White House

TJN welcomes the moves on corporate transparency announced by UK Prime Minister David Cameron on corporate transparency, to be announced today. Most specifically, a press release from his offices has said he will state today that:
"This summer at the G8 we committed to . . . establish a central register of company beneficial ownership. And today I’m delighted to announce that not only is that register going to go ahead – but that it’s also going to be open to the public."
This is excellent news. It applies to the United Kingdom only, however: next step must be to start work on providing similar services in Britain's overseas territories and crown dependencies. And of course then there's the whole question of trusts: the dog that didn't bark here. That is the real UK offshore speciality. And then there's the slippery question of what kind of information is going to be in the public registry, as Tax Research asks.

But enough carping: this, as far as it goes, is extremely welcome, and something to build on.

Comments from some of our colleagues and partners follow.

Christian Aid:
Dr Rowan Williams, Chairman of Christian Aid, said: ‘This was a brave decision by the Prime Minister and his Business Secretary, who no doubt had to face down many vested interests determined to maintain the status quo. 'The challenge now will be to ensure that this policy is delivered effectively and that the poorest people in our world are among those who feel the benefits.'
Global Witness:
"Global Witness' investigations have shown how anonymous shell companies are the global getaway cars for crime, corruption and tax evasion. Full credit should go to the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for acting to take away the keys,” said Gavin Hayman, director of campaigns at Global Witness.
The FACT coalition and TJN-USA:
Today's commitment from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to make a registry of the actual owners of corporations publicly available represents significant progress toward cracking down on anonymous companies polluting the globe.  Because the United States is a prime destination for setting up anonymous companies that are used to facilitate crime and move dirty money, members of the FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition urge the U.S. to follow through on its G8 commitment to collect information about the ultimate owners of companies.  The coalition encourages the U.S. to join the UK by pledging to make this information available to the public.
The White House / President Obama:
"Today at the OGP summit in London, the United States announced a new U.S. Open Government National Action Plan that includes six ambitious new commitments that will advance these efforts even further.  Those commitments include:
. . .
Increase Corporate Transparency:  Preventing criminal organizations from concealing the true ownership and control of businesses they operate is a critical element in safeguarding U.S. and international financial markets, addressing tax avoidance, and combatting corruption in the United States and abroad.  Today we committed to take further steps to enhance transparency of legal entities formed in the United States."
Update 2014: for information on the Mechanics of Secrecy see here.


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