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Is a new global standard in sight?

One week into the new year, a lot has happened on Capitol Hill. 

Before this week’s siege of the US Capitol by pro-Trump extremists – an assault on democracy incited by the President himself – the country’s legislators had achieved the most significant anti-corruption reform in a generation. 

On 1 January, the US Congress passed the historic Corporate Transparency Act into law, effectively banning anonymous shell companies in the country. The bill’s passage – which Transparency International’s US office helped to craft – marks the culmination of over a decade of civil society campaigning and coalition-building.

This momentous win should pave the way for a new global standard on beneficial ownership transparency.

We are inviting businesses, academia, civil society and other stakeholders to take a stand and help make anonymous companies a thing of the past everywhere by joining our call for public access to beneficial ownership information.

Sign the appeal
The letter – currently supported by over 200 signatories – will contribute to the preparatory process of the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption, UNGASS, scheduled for June. 

And when country delegates gather in New York in six months for UNGASS 2021, the US government will be led by a new president. Cracking down on global corruption and illicit finance were among the incoming president Joe Biden’s early election promises. In particular, he pledged to lead international efforts to bring transparency to the global financial system. This could not be timelier.  

Image: Thomas Hawk / Flickr
“The US is now catching up with our allies in the European Union and elsewhere, and can help champion transparency as a critical global standard,” said Gary Kalman, Director of Transparency International’s US office, upon the passage of the Corporate Transparency Act.  

The US has been one of the easiest places to set up anonymous companies – legal vehicles routinely abused for corruption, money laundering, terrorism and other grave crimes.  

That’s about to change. But until we have a new global standard, criminal and corrupt actors will find other jurisdictions where they can hide behind companies that exist only on paper.  

What do you think? Let us know @anticorruption.
Knocking on kleptocrats’ doors 

Among other things, the Corporate Transparency Act will help curb money laundering through US real estate, which has long attracted kleptocrats from around the world. Not only will the identities of those who own or control companies that purchase real estate will have to be disclosed to the government, but the US Treasury is also tasked with coming up with a “permanent solution to collecting information nationwide to track ownership of real estate.” Check out our analysis of the real estate registers in the US and three other important markets.  

UNGASS 2021: Commit to transparency in company ownership for the common good ​​

Our campaign with leading economists, trade unions and diverse civil society groups asks the governments preparing for the first-ever United Nations General Assembly Special Session against Corruption (UNGASS 2021) to make central, public registers of beneficial ownership a global standard. We invite diverse groups of stakeholders to sign the appeal.  

International Anti-Corruption Day 2020: Things can really get better

The first-ever United Nations General Assembly Special Session against Corruption, UNGASS 2021, offers us a key opportunity to tackle the global crisis of corruption. We highlight the three key reforms that the upcoming UNGASS 2021 should agree on to recover from the current crises with integrity. 

Shell companies make fighting foreign bribery an uphill struggle. It is time major economies took action

Shell companies make fighting foreign bribery a Sisyphean task. The Financial Action Task Force and its members have an opportunity to change that by reforming the global standard on beneficial ownership transparency.

Panama Papers four years on: Anonymous companies and global wealth 

More than four years after the explosive Panama Papers, the case to end corporate secrecy is stronger than ever. Abuse of anonymous shell companies is among the reasons why many countries are facing greater challenges today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Financial institutions in UK urged to review and withdraw from Ghana gold royalties deal

Transparency International has urged the UK Financial Conduct Authority to make detailed inquiries into the application to list Agyapa Royalties Limited on the London Stock Exchange, and to reject the listing if corruption concerns are not satisfactorily addressed. The banks and lawyers involved in the deal have also been urged to withdraw their engagement.

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