Civil society and allies are pushing for real (and useful) transparency when it comes to disclosing the beneficial owners (BOs) of companies, meaning the individuals who ultimately own and control the companies that operate in our economies, and that could be involved in illegal activities (e.g. tax evasion, corruption, money laundering, etc.).
After many scandals, including the Panama Papers, the international community is moving in that direction, with the G20, the OECD, the Global Forum, the EU and many countries starting to regulate and require beneficial ownership registration.
So near and yet so far…
Hopes were riding high yesterday that UK parliamentarians might seize the opportunity to take historic action to end decades of financial secrecy in the UK’s Overseas Territories. We blogged about this yesterday highlighting the fact that a lot of ongoing Parliamentary business was at risk of being shelved because of the sudden general election called by British Prime Minister Theresa May. There’s a phenomenon known as the wash-up period which “refers to the last few days of a Parliament before dissolution. Any unfinished business is lost at dissolution and the Government may need the co-operation of the Opposition in passing legislation that is still in progress.”
UK parliamentarians have the opportunity to take historic action over the next two days, ending decades of financial secrecy in the UK’s Overseas Territories.
As Parliament closes down before the General Election which will take place on the 8th June, a lot of ongoing business is now at risk. A range of Bills that have been through multiple committee stages could be lost completely, required to start from scratch in the new Parliament. But some will make it through in the intense activity of the ‘wash-up‘:
The wash-up period refers to the last few days of a Parliament before dissolution. Any unfinished business is lost at dissolution and the Government may need the co-operation of the Opposition in passing legislation that is still in progress.
We’re pleased to say that the world is moving towards the registration of beneficial owners (BOs) who are the natural persons who ultimately own, control or benefit from legal persons (e.g. companies) and legal arrangements (e.g. trusts). If made public, these registries would increase financial transparency. Public registers of BOs are the only way to prevent criminals from hiding behind opaque structures and nominees from facilitating tax evasion, money laundering, fraud, and other forms of corruption, including the financing of terrorism. They are also a prerequisite for the smooth functioning of markets by providing basic information for market participants and regulators so they know who is doing business where, as well as for the wider understanding of patterns of national and international economic activity.
The Bundesrat has today voted to recommend implementing a public register of the beneficial ownership of companies and trusts.
Great news from Germany, as the country takes an important step forward towards corporate transparency.