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Beneficial Ownership

Beneficial ownership transparency has emerged as an important policy tool in countries for combating corruption, stemming illicit financial flows, and fighting tax evasion.

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Overview

Shell companies (and other legal vehicles) are often used to hide profits, terrorist financing, or illegally obtained money. In most countries, disclosure of the individual(s) who ultimately controls or profits from a business (the “beneficial owners”) is not required. According to the World Bank, roughly 70 percent of the biggest corruption cases between 1980 and 2010 involved anonymous companies.

Growing global recognition of these problems, as highlighted by revelations in the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers, FinCEN Files, and the latest Pandora Papers, is accelerating interest in beneficial ownership transparency reform. Governments as diverse as Denmark, Kenya, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom have committed to publish beneficial ownership information. Similarly, more and more OGP member countries, including Armenia, Nigeria, and Mexico, are using their action plans to advance beneficial ownership transparency by implementing central registers. Some of these countries are exploring policy tools to publish these are public registers.

Altogether, one third of OGP national members have made 52 total beneficial ownership commitments since OGP was established in 2011.

The Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group, initiated by the United Kingdom and supported by partners including Open Ownership, seeks to support implementation  beneficial ownership transparency through OGP and other platforms.The group is comprised of Armenia, Kenya, Latvia, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom. Recently Nigeria also announced its intention to join. 

Within OGP,  sub-regional and regional communities of practice for peer learning on beneficial ownership transparency have been established, including for Latin America, the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership. These include members of the Leadership Group to help catalyze the race to the top on this set of reforms.



Recommendations

The OGP Global Report suggests four key issues that countries can address in second generation reforms:

  • Strengthen the disclosure requirements. Reinforcing underlying legal and regulatory requirements for disclosure of different types of ownership across various legal vehicles is fundamental to more effective, transparent processes. 
    • As much as $120 billion a year is laundered through London. In response, the UK government created a public register of beneficial owners that is accessed 20,000 times as day.
    • In 2019 Nigeria committed to pushing ahead with legally requiring the collection of beneficial ownership information and publishing it in an open register according to international standards. In August 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new beneficial ownership registry into law as part of the Companies and Allied Matters Act
  • Improve the interoperability of information. Applying common standards such as the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard and linking ownership information with other policy areas can help to track money and assets across sectors and jurisdictions.  
  • Verify registered information. Open beneficial ownership data, coupled with strong verification systems, ensures data is accurate and usable. 
    • Ukraine first committed to an open registry and then became the first OGP country to commit to improving the verification of beneficial ownership information by integrating its register in OpenOwnership’s global register. Ukraine now spearheads a second surge on audits and verification.
    • Denmark and the Slovak Republic currently have public registries that include steps to confirm the accuracy of the information submitted.
  • Engage citizens in monitoring and accountability. Informal and formal channels for accountability enable citizens to actively use ownership data to uncover networks of corruption.

Partnerships and Coalitions

Partners

Coalitions


OGP Global Report Data

The data below is drawn from the 2019 OGP Global Report. You can view and learn more about the report here.

These are members making OGP commitments to improve their performance in the respective policy area. As members that have demonstrated political commitment through OGP, the next step is ensuring that implemented commitments have maximal impact.

Key
Indicates that member has a starred commitment in this policy area.


Resources

  1. The New Leadership Playbook

    Nothing about the inherent nature of business dictates that irreversible environmental damage, poor labor standards and conformity in leadership ...

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  2. Actions to Tackle Corruption

    Corruption continues to undermine democratic institutions worldwide. Without strong commitments focused on political integrity, achieving OGP’s partnership-wide goals of economic…

    2021, , Web Page

  3. Recommendations on Women Against Corruption for OGP Action Plans

    Transparency International shares recommendations for governments serious about tackling the impact of corruption on women and ensuring their participation in…

    2020, Outbound Link, Web Page

  4. Transparency of asset and beneficial ownership information

    A paper from Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI.org)

    2020, Outbound Link, Web Page

  5. Finding the Real Beneficiary - Video

    Watch this video case study that highlights early results from the Slovak Republic's public register on beneficial ownership.

    2019, Perspective, Web Page

  6. Global Report - Beneficial Ownership

    Beneficial ownership transparency has emerged as an essential means for combating corruption, stemming illicit financial flows, and fighting tax evasion.

    2019, Document, PDF

  7. Beneficial Ownership Fact Sheet

    A look at global progress and member-level examples of beneficial ownership work in OGP

    2021, Document, PDF

  8. Where Do We Go From Here? Taking Stock of Beneficial Ownership Transparency

    A few weeks ago, the Government of Georgia hosted the Fifth Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Tbilisi. The event…

    2018, Perspective, Web Page

  9. Advancing Collective Action on Beneficial Ownership

        When a country first joins OGP, and we speak with civil society and government for the first time,…

    2017, Perspective, Web Page

  10. Revealing Who Stands Behind Companies

    Explore EITI’s resources on beneficial ownership disclosure for the oil, gas and mining industries.

    2019, Outbound Link, Web Page

  11. Tales of the Unacceptable

    Read case studies from Global Witness featuring investigations uncovering corruption dealings through anonymous companies.

    2019, Outbound Link, Web Page

  12. Open Ownership’s Implementation Guide

    Explore this guide for practical resources, knowledge sharing, and good practice on beneficial ownership transparency that is being developed by…

    , Outbound Link, Web Page

  13. Privacy or Public Interest? Making the Case for Public Information on Company Ownership

    Learn about the debates surrounding the intersection between data protection and privacy laws and tackling corruption through beneficial ownership registers…

    2019, Outbound Link, Web Page

  14. Data Protection and Privacy in Beneficial Ownership Disclosure

    Open Ownership, The B Team and Engine Room share the rationales and risks for the public disclosure of ownership data.

    2019, Outbound Link, Web Page

  15. Recommendations on Beneficial Ownership for OGP Action Plans

    Read Transparency International’s report for model commitments, best practice for opening registers, and more.

    2018, Outbound Link, Web Page

  16. United Kingdom - Beneficial Ownership

    2018, Document, PDF

  17. Can beneficial ownership transparency really be compatible with data protection?

    In recent years, we’ve seen significant progress on clamping down on the abuse of anonymous company ownership through beneficial ownership…

    2018, Perspective, Web Page

  18. Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group

    The Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group came together in 2019 to drive the global policy shift towards free, open beneficial ownership…

    2020, , Web Page

  19. Beneficial Ownership Transparency for Companies Listed on the Stock Exchange

    Many beneficial ownership registration frameworks fail to obtain beneficial ownership information from listed companies for two main reasons. Tax Justice…

    2020, Outbound Link, Web Page

  20. The Anticorruption Commitment Creator (English)

    Global Integrity, Open Data Charter, ILDA , AODN, and OD4D share four steps to generating OGP open data commitments to…

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  21. El Creador de Compromisos Anti-Corrupción (Español)

    Global Integrity, Open Data Charter, ILDA , AODN, y OD4D comparten cuatro pasos para generar compromisos OGP de datos abiertos…

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  22. Le Créateur d’Engagements Anti-Corruption (Français)

    Global Integrity, Open Data Charter, ILDA , AODN, et OD4D partagent 4 étapes pour générer des engagements OGP de données…

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  23. Beneficial Ownership Data in Procurement

    Open Ownership outlines the main ways beneficial ownership data can improve public procurement processes and objectives and discusses some of…

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  24. Los datos sobre los beneficiarios finales en el contexto de las adquisiciones

    Open Ownership delinea distintos modos en que los datos sobre los beneficiarios finales mejoran los procesos de adquisición pública y…

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  25. Promoting Beneficial Ownership and Integrity Screening in the Mining Sector

    Explore Transparency International's Accountable Mining Programme's new guide for civil society organisations working to tackle corruption in mining.

    2021, Outbound Link, Web Page

  26. Guidance: Collect, use and exchange beneficial ownership information

    The UK government explains how the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard can be used by governments, how it meets user needs,…

    2022, Outbound Link, Web Page

  27. Gender and beneficial ownership transparency

    Open Ownership looks at the links between beneficial ownership transparency and gender. It considers a range of potential benefits, limitations,…

    2022, Outbound Link, Web Page


Commitments


Recent Content

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