European Union Takes Substantial Step Towards Corporate Transparency

Posted on January 6, 2015

The European Parliament has taken an important but incremental step towards full transparency of corporations and trusts registered within the European Union.  This legislation exceeds the agreements made by G20 leaders in November 2014 but falls short compared to the planned reforms expected from the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands.  Under the new legislation:

  • Full access to corporate beneficial ownership will be granted to law enforcement and relevant government corporate registries. 
  • Partial access to corporate beneficial ownership will be given to members of the public such as NGO's and investigative journalists if they can prove a legitimate interest to request the information.
  • Beneficial ownership of trust accounts will only be available to law enforcement.
  • European corporate registries have 2 years in order to make the changes.

While a welcome development to be sure, the legislation falls short of expectations.  I see the partial restriction placed on public access as a significant hindrance to transparency.  Much of the success of the global anti-corruption movement is directly attributable to the NGO and investigative journalist communities.  The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has done more to expose bank and tax secrecy havens than just about any government group bar none.  Critics have noted that this legislation places the burden of proof upon the public rather than on potential criminals.

Nonetheless, this is a welcome development, even if it's an incremental step towards full transparency.

Check out the Transparency International press release here. 

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