Monday, September 02, 2013

Public registries on companies, trusts: an idea whose time has come

For a long time we and many of our colleagues in the tax justice movement have been calling for public registries to be set up containing beneficial ownership for all companies, trusts and foundations, and their like.

We thought we would share part of an e-mail this morning from Robert Palmer of Global Witness, an NGO that has played a pivotal role in this crucial area.
"We've seen real support growing behind the idea of public registers - from businesses, law enforcement and even the banks themselves."
For examples, he cites Simon Walker, head of the UK's Institute of Directors, a large business lobby groups, who has come out in favour of public registers of beneficial ownership, here.

The head of the British Bankers Association has also spoken publicly about the need for registers, though he’s less clear on whether they should be public.

The head of tax for the Confederation of British Industry, the most powerful UK business group, Will Morris, has stated that having such a register was a “no-brainer” - and his personal preference was to make it available to the public.
A public Avaaz petition from businesses calling on the UK government to adopt public registers of beneficial ownership attracted 23,000 signatures so far.

And then of course there's Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron:
"I hope G8 Leaders will consider publishing national Action Plans by June that set out concrete steps that their governments will take to achieve this – including, for example, by enhancing the availability of beneficial ownership information through central public company registries."
Many others in other countries support such an idea. See, for example, Frank Knapp's article in The Hill in Washington, D.C. supporting the idea, or this, from the Manhattan District Attorney.

See also this, via the World Economic Forum, (courtesy of Joe Stead and Robert Palmer)

Elsewhere, the European Banking Federation has stated (p6) that it regards public registries as “imperative if credit and financial institutions are expected to discharge their obligations concerning Beneficial Ownership identification” under the EU's Anti Money Laundering (AML) legislation."
As Global Witness' Palmer notes, timing is crucial on this, since the European Union is currently debating how to deal with the problem of hidden company ownership as part of the discussions around the revision of its anti-money laundering directive.

Public registries with beneficial ownership information: this is clearly an idea whose time is coming. Why not just get on with it?


Anonymous Maggie Murphy said...

It also looks like the Global Agenda Council on Organized Crime of the World Economic Forum is in favour too:

"Beneficial Owners

Regarding the registration of corporate entities:

- Information registered with official agencies should include both legal owners (directors and shareholders) and beneficial owners
- The registered information is verified by the registry authority
The registered information is updated in a timely way by the corporate entity when there are changes
- The register is publicly accessible by payment online, and the payment is set at a minimum level to encourage access"

4:48 am  

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