Open Ownership, an organization dedicated to increasing corporate transparency, has recently released a guide that serves as a useful explainer of beneficial ownership transparency policies. Beneficial ownership transparency means that legal entities (such as companies) must disclose information about the people who ultimately own, fund, and/or control them.
Anonymous “shell” companies can play a significant role in enabling fraud, corruption, tax evasion, and organized crime. Requiring legal disclosure of ownership improves enterprise ecosystems by reducing risk, increasing transparency, and promoting trust within economies. As communities and the governments that represent them become increasingly aware of the potential harm that anonymous corporate ownership can do to economies, there has been a corresponding rise in countries and activists promoting beneficial ownership transparency.
Open Ownership notes that because best practices around beneficial ownership transparency are still evolving, their guide should be treated as a work-in-progress, which will itself continue to evolve in response to changes in the policy arena.
The guide is highly accessible and makes for useful reading among both experts and novices alike. CIPE is exploring projects focused on the role that civil society can play in policy discussions around beneficial ownership registries and recommends Open Ownership’s guide for those looking to learn more.
For a deeper dive, consider taking a look at the OECD Beneficial Ownership Implementation Toolkit, which navigates more of the technical details of beneficial ownership policies.
Caroline Kelly, Fellow, CIPE’s Anti-Corruption and Governance Center