Taking the first steps toward a global and open register of beneficial ownership

  • Publication date: 22 November 2016
  • Author: Hera Hussain

The past year has seen huge strides towards ending the opacity of who anonymous companies, so beloved by criminals, corrupt politicians and tax evaders to mask their activities. The UK published the first public register of who controls companies, numerous other countries committed to doing the same, and sectorial initiatives such as EITI pledged to collect and publish data on who controls and benefits from companies.

These are great first steps but more needs to be done if we are going to surface connections and flag corruption risks. As it stands, all of these datasets would be siloed and the quality of data would differ for each jurisdiction. To make this data searchable and comparable across multiple jurisdictions, they need to be collected and collated into a single place (this is after all on information about cross-border networks of companies).

That’s where Open Ownership comes in. We have been set up by the leading transparency and anti-corruption organisations* to create a truly open global beneficial ownership register. When it is fully developed, the register will provide a single window to search, combine and link the incoming global data sets.

We’re also going two steps further. First, we want to enable progressive companies who want to self-report their corporate structure to do so through the register. Second, we are developing an open data standard that will help governments collect beneficial ownership information and link to other databases such as public contracts through the Open Contracting Data Standard. The platform itself will also reduce the technical barriers to governments, who can ask companies to submit data through our platform.

But the creation of such a register cannot and should not be done in isolation. We need procurement officers, businesses, due diligence experts, civil society, investigative journalists, lawyer, accountants and others to help us design the register. There are opportunities for all stakeholders to get involved. Contact us today to help us make the register of global beneficial ownership information a success.

*These include Global Witness, Open Contracting Partnership, Web Foundation, Transparency International, and the B Team, as well as OpenCorporates.