Anonymous shell companies enable corruption, fraud, organised crime and tax evasion. The wider the access to high quality data on who owns what, the harder it will be for corrupt individuals to hide. – OpenOwnership
A recent Global Financial Integrity (GFI) article provides data that illustrate that relationship between anonymous companies and corruption. It notes past studies such as OECD’s that showed “nearly every economic crime involved the misuse of anonymous companies,” and World Bank’s that “found that 70% of all cases relied on anonymous companies to help carry out and hide gains from corruption.” More recent studies indicate the United States as being one of the easiest places to open an anonymous company, including GFI’s 2019 study that found in all 50 states “registering for a library card required more personal information than is needed to register a company.”
To help provide transparency and directly address the issue of anonymous ownership secrecy, OpenOwnership collects data on who owns companies globally and makes it openly available. Launched in 2017, a year after the Panama Papers leak, the platform provides access to the Beneficial OpenOwnership Register and the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard, which enables beneficial ownership data to be interoperable, reusable, and of high quality.
The OpenOwnership Register, which is in Beta, links beneficial ownership information from multiple sources and as of this writing makes available information on 5,777,683 companies from:
- UK PSC (People with Significant Control) Register
- Denmark Central Business Register (CVR)
- Slovakia Public Sector Partners Register
- Ukraine Unified States Register (EDR)
- EITI pilot data (from an initial Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative beneficial ownership report, sampling data from 23 countries between 2012 and 2015)
- User submissions
The Directory allows you to search for a company with the results showing ownership data in both list and graphic formats. The graphic format visually depicts a corporation’s hierarchy of ownership. You can zoom in on different entities and click on each to get more detailed information. Information provided on the detail page for each entity varies but frequently includes percentage of ownership of shares and ownership of voting rights, incorporation date, previous name(s), and officers. The data is from OpenCorporates.
The organizations supporting OpenOwnership are Transparency International, Global Witness, ONE, Open Contracting Partnership, and the B Team, along with OpenCorporates, with initial funding by the Department for International Development (UK).
For legitimate concerns about privacy rights and data protection, OpenOwnership has recently authored a post that is helpful to read.